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STEEL 

The Diary of a Furnace Worker 



STEEL 

The Diary of a 
Furnace Worker 



By 
CHARLES RUMFORD WALKER 




THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY PRESS 
BOSTON 



Copyright, 1922, by 
CHARLES RUMFORD WALKER 



PUNTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 



Foreword 

IN the summer of 1919, a few weeks before the 
Great Steel Strike, I bought some second-hand 
clothes and went to work on an open-hearth fur- 
nace near Pittsburgh to learn the steel business. I was 
a graduate of Yale, and a few weeks before had re- 
signed a commission as first-lieutenant in the regular 
army. Clean-up man in the pit was my first job, 
which I held until I passed to third-helper on the 
open-hearth. Later I worked in the cast-house, be- 
came a member of the stove-gang, and at length 
achieved the semi-skilled job of hot-blast man on the 
blast-furnace. I acquired the current Anglo-Hunky 
language and knew speedily the grind and the cama- 
raderie of American steel-making. In these chapters I 
have put down what I saw, felt, and thought as a 
steel-worker in 1919. 

Steel is perhaps the basic industry of America. In 
a sense it is the industry that props our complex indus- 
trial civilization, since it supplies the steel frame, the 
steel rail, the steel tool without which locomotives and 
skyscrapers would be impossible. And in America it 
contains the largest known combination of manage- 
ment and capital, the United States Steel Corpora- 
tion. Some appreciation of these things I had when I 
went to work in the steel business. It was clear that 



v 



steel had become something of a barometer not only 
for American business but for American labor. I was 
keenly interested to know what would happen, and 
believed that basic industries like steel and coal were 
cast for leading roles either in the breaking-up or the 
making-over of society. 

The book is written from a diary of notes put down 
in the evenings when I was working on day shifts of 
ten hours. Alternate weeks, I worked the fourteen- 
hour night shift, and spent my time off eating or 
asleep. 

The book is a narrative heat, fatigue, rough- 
house, pay, as they came in an uncharted wave 
throughout the twenty-four hours. 

But it is in a sense raw material, I believe, that sug- 
gests the beginnings of several studies both human 
and economic. Mr. Walter Lippmann has recently 
pointed out that men do not act in accordance with 
the facts and forces of the world as it is, but in accord- 
ance with the " picture " of it they have in their heads. 1 
Nowhere does the form and pressure of the real world 
differ more sharply from the picture in men's heads 
than among different social and racial groups in indus- 
try. Nor is anywhere the accuracy of the picture of 
more importance. An open-hearth furnace helper, 
working the twelve-hour day, and a Boston broker, 
owning fifty shares of Steel Preferred, hold, as a rule, 
strikingly different pictures of the same forces and 
conditions. But what is of greater importance is that 
director, manager, foreman, by reason of training, 

1 Public Opinion: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922 



FOREWORD vii 

interest, or tradition, are often quite as unable to 
guess at the picture in the worker's head, and hence 
to understand his actions, as the more distant stock- 
holder. 

Perhaps a technique may some day arise which will 
supply the executives of industry not only with the 
facts about employees in their varied racial and social 
groups but supply the facts with due emphasis and in 
three dimensions so that the controller of power may 
be able to see them as descriptive of men of like 
mind with himself. The conclusion most burned into 
my consciousness was the lack of such knowledge or 
understanding in the steel industry and the impera- 
tive need of securing it, in order to escape continual 
industrial war, and perhaps disaster. 

There are certain inferences, I think, like the above, 
that can be made from this record. But no thesis has 
been introduced and no argument developed. I have 
recorded the impressions of a complex environment, 
putting into words sight, sound, feeling, and thought. 
The book may be read as a story of men and machines 
and a personal adventure among them no less than 
as a study of conditions and a system. 

C. R. W. 



Contents 

I CAMP EUSTIS 

Bouton, Pennsylvania 1 

II MOLTEN STEEL IN THE "PIT" 

An Initiation 16 

III THE OPEN-HEARTH FURNACE 

Night-Shifts 30 

IV EVERYDAY LIFE 45 

V WORKING THE TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR 

SHIFT 62 

VI BLAST-FURNACE APPRENTICESHIP ... 81 

VII DUST, HEAT, AND COMRADESHIP .... 96 

VIII I TAKE A DAY OFF 114 

IX "No CAN LIVE" 127 

EPILOGUE 141 



S T E EL 



CAMP EUSTIS BOUTON, PENNSYLVANIA 

A SMALL torrent of khaki swept on to the ferryboat 
that was taking troops to the special train for Camp 
Merritt. They stood all over her deck, in uncomfort- 
ably small areas ; there seemed to be no room for the 
pack, which perhaps you were expected to swallow. 
Faces were a little pale from seasickness, but carried 
a uniformly radiant expression, which proceeded from 
a lively anticipation of civilian happiness. The con- 
versation was ejaculatory, and included slapping and 
digging and squeezing your neighbor. Men were say- 
ing over and over again: "This is about the last li'l war 
they '11 ketch me for." 

I succeeded in getting beside the civilian pilot. 

"What's happening in America?" I asked. 

"Oh," he said, "it's a mess over here. There ain't 
any jobs, and labor is raisin' hell. Everybody that hez 
a job strikes." He looked out over the water at a tug 
hurrying past. "I don't know what we're comin' out 
at. Russia, mebbe." 

In the spring of the year Camp Eustis was an island 
of concrete roads and wooden barracks salvaged from 
an encroaching sea of mud. Its site had been selected 
at an immense distance from any village, or even any 



2 STEEL 

collection of .human dwellings, for particular reasons. 
It v/as tc> .contain the longest artillery range in the 
United States. 

After wallowing in bog road through Virginian 
forest, one came with a shock of relief to a wide, 
raised, concrete roadbed, which passed newly built 
warehouses and, after an eighth of a mile, curved into 
the centre of the camp. 

It was like any one of the score of mushroom mili- 
tary centres that grew up on American soil in the 
years from 1917 to 1919, except that there was an un- 
usual abundance of heavy guns. They covered field 
upon field, opposite the ordnance warehouses, and 
their yellow and green camouflage looked absurdly 
showy in the spring sunshine. Mornings, there was 
apt to be a captive balloon or two afloat from the 
balloon school, against blue sky and white clouds; 
and the landscape held several gaunt observation 
towers, constructed of steel girders and rising from 
the forest to a height of seventy-five or eighty feet. 

The camp was crowded with returning overseas 
units, awaiting demobilization and praying earnestly 
for it day by day, as men pray for pardon. 

In a few weeks I should be out of this, going to work 
somewhere, wearing cits. What a variety of moods the 
world had split into, from the enormous tension that 
relaxed on the eleventh of November. Geographically 
the training-camp was two thousand miles from the 
devastations of Europe; and from the new forces that 
were destroying or renewing civilization, how many 
more? It seemed like the aftermath of an exciting 



CAMP EUSTIS 3 

play that had just been acted; waiting here was like 
staying to put away properties, and dismiss the actors. 
It occurred to me that the camp was at least ten 
thousand miles from America. 

There was one consolation in this interminable 
lingering amid the spring muds and rains of Virginia. 
Duties were light, and there were a hundred and fifty 
cavalry horses in the stables, needing exercise. Some- 
times we went out on the drill-ground and were taught 
tricks by an old cavalry officer; or hurdles were set up 
and we practised jumping our horses. The roads were 
deeply gutted by spring rains and the pressure of 
heavy trucks, but there were wood-trails good to ex- 
plore, and interesting objectives like Williamstown or 
Yorktown. I fell into doing my thinking in the saddle. 

Naturally I wondered about my new job my 
civilian job. It was not just an ordinary change from 
one breadwinning place to another. It was a new job 
in a world never convertible quite to the one that had 
kindled the war. It was impossible not to feel that the 
civilized structure had shaken and disintegrated a bit, 
or to escape the sense of great powers released. I was 
unable to decide whether the powers were cast for a 
role of great destruction or of great renewal. 

Even in Eustis we received newspapers. The urge 
and groan of those powers naturally worked into 
phrases now and then, and even into special tightly 
worded formulae. I remember newspaper ejacula- 
tions, professorial dissertations, orators' exaggera- 
tions : " Capital and labor Labor in its place The 
proletariat A new order" and so forth. I felt 



4 STEEL 

confused and distrustful in the face of phrases and 
of the implied doctrines, old and new. 

Besides the business of demobilizing the national 
army, the remaining regular officers and non-coms 
went into the school of fire, and practised observation 
of shots over a beautiful relief map of the "Chemin- 
des-Dames." This was the most warlike thing we did 
and continued for several months. 

One day I took a walk beside the ordnance ware- 
houses, and looked over at the rows of guns stretching 
for a quarter of a mile beside railroad tracks. In a 
short time I would be turning my back on these com- 
plicated engines. I was even sorry about it, a little; 
I had spent so much sweat and brain learning about 
their crankinesses. 

In that civil life to follow, I began to see that I 
wanted two things: 1, a job to give me a living; 2, a 
chance to discover and build under the new social and 
economic conditions. 

I was twenty-five, a college graduate, a first-lieu- 
tenant in the army. In the civilian world into which 
I was about to jump, most of my connections were 
with the university I had recently left, few or none in 
the business world. Why not enlist, then, in one of the 
basic industries, coal, oil, or steel? I liked steel it 
was the basic American industry, and technically and 
economically it interested me. Why not enlist in steel ? 
Get a laborer's job? Learn the business ? And, besides, 
the chemical forces of change, I meditated, were at 
work at the bottom of society 



CAMP EUSTIS 5 

The next day I sent in the resignation of my com- 
mission in the regular army of the United States. 

Outside the car window, ore piles were visible, 
black stacks and sooty sheet-iron mills, coal dumps 
and jagged cuts in the hills against greenness and the 
meadows and mountains beyond. There were farms, 
here and there, but they seemed to have been let in 
by sufferance amid the primary apparatus of the 
steel-makers. 

What an amazingly primary thing steel had become 
in the civilization we called modern! Steel was the 
basic industry of America ; but, more than that, it was, 
in a sense, the buttress, the essential frame, rather, of 
present-day life. It made rails, surgical instruments, 
the girders of skyscrapers, the tools which cut, bored, 
and filed all the other tools that made, in their turn, 
the material basis of our living. It was interesting to 
think that it contained America's biggest "trust," 
the greatest example of integration, of financial, of 
managerial combination, anywhere to be found. 
Steel was critical in America's future, was n't it 
critical for business, critical for labor? 

I met a salesman on the train, who was about to go 
into business for himself. "I intend to start out on a 
new tack," he said. 

He told me briefly his life-story, and how things 
were forcing him to start a new enterprise, alone. He 
was very much excited by the idea. He was going to 
quit his employer, having been with him twenty-nine 
years. 



6 STEEL 

"I'm getting a new job myself," I said; "I've just 
got out of the army." 

We both fell into silence, and thought of our own 
separate futures. 

What were a young man's chances in American 
business to-day? I thought of a book I had just been 
reading called, "The Age of Big Business." In it was 
the story of the first captains who saw a vision of 
immense material development, and with the utmost 
vigor and hardihood pushed on and marked the lead- 
ing trails. But apparently the affair had been too 
roughly done, the structure too crudely wrought: 
machinery jarred, broke, threatened to bring life 
down in a rusty heap. "No, you are wrong," I fancied 
the business leader saying; "it is the agitator who, by 
dwelling on imaginary ills, has stirred up the masses 
of mankind." 

I gazed out of the window at the black mills as we 
passed them. I was about to learn the steel business. 
I knew perfectly well that the men who built this 
basic structure were as hardy and intelligent no 
less and no more so, I hazarded as this new genera- 
tion of mine. But the job difficult technical job 
though it was appeared too simple in their eyes. 
"Build up business, and society will take care of 
itself," they had said. A partial breakdown, a partial 
revolution had resulted. Perhaps a thoroughgoing 
revolution threatened. I did n't know. 

I knew there was no "solution." There was 
nothing so neat as that for this multiform condition. 
But an adjustment, a working arrangement would be 



CAMP EUSTIS 7 

found out, somehow, by my generation. I expected to 
discover no specific no formula with ribbons 
after working at the bottom of the mill. I did expect 
to learn something of the practical technique of mak- 
ing steel, and alongside it, despite, or perhaps be- 
cause of, an outsider's fresh vision, some sense of 
the forces getting ready at the bottom of things to 
make or break society. Both kinds of education were 
certainly up to my generation. 

The train jarred under its brakes, and began to 
slow down. 

"Good luck," I said to the salesman; "I hope you 
make it all right." 

"Good luck," he said. 

The train stopped and I found the Bouton station, 
small and neatly built, of a gray stone, with deeply 
overhanging roof and Gothicized windows. It seemed 
unrelated to the rest of the steel community. On the 
right, across tracks, loomed a dark gathering of stacks 
arising from irregular acres of sheet-iron roofs. Smoke- 
columns of various texture, some colored gold from an 
interior light, streaked the sky immediately above the 
mill stacks. The town spread itself along a valley and 
on the sides of encircling hills on my left. In the fore- 
ground was Main Street, with stores and restaurants 
and a fruit-seller. I went across the street to explore 
for breakfast. 

"Can I look at the job?" I asked. 

"Sure," he said, "you can look at the job." 

I walked out of the square, brick office of the 



8 STEEL 

open-hearth foreman, and lost my way in a maze of 
railroad tracks, trestles, and small brick shanties, at last 
pushing inside a blackened sheet-iron shell, the mill. 
I entered by the side, following fierce white lights 
shining from the half-twilight interior. They seemed 
immensely brighter than the warm sun in the heavens. 

I was first conscious of the blaring mouths of 
furnaces. There were five of them, and men with 
shovels in line, marching within a yard, hurling a 
white gravel down red throats. Two of the men were 
stripped, and their backs were shiny in the red flare. 
I tried to feel perfectly at home, but discovered a deep 
consciousness of being overdressed. My straw hat I 
could have hurled into a ladle of steel. 

Some one yelled, "Watch yourself!" and I looked 
up, with some horror, to note half the mill moving 
slowly but resolutely onward, bent on my annihila- 
tion. I was mistaken. It was the charging-machine, 
rattling and grinding past furnace No. 7. 

The machine is a monster, some forty feet from head 
to rear, stretching nearly the width of the central open 
space in the mill. The tracks on which it proceeds go 
the whole length, in front of all the furnaces. I dodged 
it, or rather ran from it, toward what appeared open 
water, but found there more tracks for stumbling. An 
annoyed whistle lifted itself against the general back- 
ground of noise. I looked over my shoulder. It re- 
lieved me to find a mere locomotive. I knew how to 
cope with locomotives. It was coming at me leisurely, 
so I gave it an interested inspection before leaving the 
track. It dragged a cauldron of exaggerated propor- 



CAMP EUSTIS 9 

tions on a car fitted to hold it easily. A dull glow 
showed from inside, and a swirl of sparks and smoke 
shot up and lost themselves among girders. 

The annoyed whistle recurred. By now the charg- 
ing affair had lumbered past, was still threatening 
noisily, but was two furnaces below. I stepped back 
into the central spaces of the mill. 

The foreman had told me to see the melter, Peter 
Grayson. I asked a short Italian, with a blazing face 
and weeping eyes, where the melter was. 

He stared hostilely at me. 

"Pete Grayson," I said. 

"Oh, Pete," he returned; "there! " 

I followed his eyes past a pile of coal, along a pipe, 
up to Pete. He was a Russian, of Atlas build, bent, 
vast-shouldered, a square head like a box. He was 
lounging slowly toward me with short steps. Coming 
into the furnace light, I could see he was an old man 
with white hair under his cap, and a wooden face 
which, I was certain, kept a uniform expression in all 
weathers. 

"What does a third-helper do?" I asked when he 
came alongside. 

Pete spat and turned away, as if the question dis- 
gusted him profoundly. But I noticed in a moment 
that he was giving the matter thought. 

We waited two minutes. Finally he said, looking at 
me, "Why a third-helper has got a hell of a lot to do." 

He seemed to regard this quantitative answer as 
entirely satisfying. 

"I know," I said, "but what in hell does he do?" 



io STEEL 

He again looked at the floor, considered, and spat. 
"Reworks around the furnace," he said. 

I saw that I should have to accept this as a pro- 
spectus. So I began negotiations. "I want a job," 
I said. "I come from Mr. Towers. Have you got 
anything now?" 

He looked away again and said, "They want a man 
on the night-shift. Can you come at five?" 

My heart leaped a bit at "the night-shift." I 
thought over the hours-schedule the employment 
manager had rehearsed: "Five to seven, fourteen 
hours, on the night-week." 

"Yes," I said. 

We had just about concluded this verbal contract, 
when a chorus of "Heows" hit our eardrums. Men 
make such a sound in a queer, startling, warning way, 
difficult to describe. I looked around for the charg- 
ing machine, or locomotive, but neither was in range. 

"What are they 'Heowing' about?" I thought 
violently to myself. 

But Pete had already grabbed my arm with a hand 
like a crane-hook. "Want to watch y'self," he said; 
"get hurt." 

I saw what it was, now : the overhead crane, about 
to carry over our heads a couple of tons of coal in a 
huge swaying box. 

I looked around a little more before I left, trying to 
organize some meaning into the operations I observed; 
trying to wonder how it would be to take a shovel 
and hurl that white gravel into those red throats. I 
said to myself: "Hell! I guess I can handle it," and 



CAMP EUSTIS ii 

thought strongly on the worst things I had known in 
the army. 

As I stood, a locomotive entered the mill from the 
other end, and went down the track before the 
furnaces. It was dragging flat-cars, with iron boxes 
laid crosswise on them, as big as coffins. I went over 
and looked carefully at the train load, and at one or 
two of the boxes. They were filled with irregular 
shapes of iron, wire coils, bars, weights, sheets, frag- 
ments of machines, in short scrap. 

"This is what they eat," I thought, glancing at the 
glowing doors; "I wonder how many tons a day." 
I waited till the locomotive came to a shaken stop in 
front of the middle furnace, then left the mill by the 
tracks along which it had entered. 

I followed them out and along a short bridge. A 
little way to my right was solid ground the yards, 
where I had been. Back of Mr. Towers's little office 
were more mills. I picked out the power house 
half a city block. Behind them all were five cone- 
shaped towers, against the sky, and a little smoke 
curling over the top the blast-furnaces. Behind 
me the Bessemer furnace threw off a cloud of fire that 
had changed while I was in the mill from brown to 
brownish gold. In front, and to my left, the tracks 
ran on the edge of a sloping embankment that fell 
away quickly to a lower level. Fifty yards from the 
base was the blooming-mill, where the metal was be- 
ing rolled into great oblong shapes called " blooms." 
A vague red glow came out of its interior twilights. 

Down through the railroad ties on which I walked 



12 STEEL 

was open space, twenty feet below. Two workmen 
were coming out with dinner-buckets. It must be 
nearly twelve. I had a curiosity to know the arrange- 
ment and workings of the dark mill-cellar from which 
they came. 

Turning back on the open-hearth mill, when I had 
crossed the bridge, I could see that it extended itself, 
in a sort of gigantic lean-to shelter, over what the 
melter had called the "pit." There was a crane mov- 
ing about there, and more centres of light, which I 
took to be molten steel. I wondered about that area, 
too, and what sort of work the men did. 

When I reached the end of the track, I thought to 
myself: "I go to work at five o'clock. How about 
clothes?" 

No one in the mill wore overalls, except car- 
penters and millwrights, and so on. The helpers 
on the furnaces were clad in shapeless, baggy, gray 
affairs for trousers, and shirts were blue or gray, with 
a rare khaki. Hats were either degraded felts, or those 
black- visor effects like locomotive engineers. 

The twelve-o'clock whistle blew. A few men had 
been moving toward the gate slowly for minutes. The 
whistle sent them at top walking-speed. I stared at 
them to assure myself as to the correct dress for steel 
makers. 

Main Street began at the tracks, and ran straight 
through the town, mounting the hills as it went. At 
the railroad end was the Hotel Bouton, where I had 
breakfasted. Beside it was an Italian fruit store 



CAMP EUSTIS 13 

sprawling leisurely over the sidewalk, and a Greek 
restaurant, one of four. The Greeks monopolized the 
feeding of Bouton. A block farther, on the right, I 
ran into a clothing-store, a barber-shop, and two 
rudimentary department stores. Then, on the same 
side, a finished city block, looking queer and haughty 
arnid its village companions. 

" What's that?" I asked a strolling, raw-boned 
Slav. 

"Comp'ny store," he said. 

I passed a one-story movie "palace," almost con- 
cealed behind chromatic advertising, and then the 
street twisted and I entered the " American quarter." 
Half a mile of neat, slightly varying brick houses, with 
lawns fifteen by twenty, and children in such quantity 
as seriously to menace automobiles. 

I looked at the numbers with growing interest, to 
discover in which I should go to bed to-morrow morn- 
ing at 7.30. The employment manager had given me 
the number 343 to try. Here it was, on the right, 
quite like the others, and, I guessed, about twenty 
minutes from the mill. Calculation of the rising-times 
for future night-shifts came into my mind. 

I was shown the back room on the second floor a 
very good room, with a big bed, and two windows. 

: ' You can see our garden," said Mrs. Farrell stand- 
ing at one of the windows. 

I looked out and found the most intensively culti- 
vated twenty-foot plot I had ever seen or imagined. 
Behind was the back road and a mud cliff. The room 
seemed a little extravagant for a third-helper, but I 



14 STEEL 

took it, in order to have a place for the night, and con- 
tracted to pay four dollars a week. 

I walked through a street where the prices of cloth- 
ing were moderate, but where there seemed a dearth of 
second-hand shops. In one store were green suits, 
belted, and hung on forms. They had the close-fitting 
waist, and were marked, "Style Plus Garments: Our 
Special Price, 315.00." The proprietor, who stood in 
the doorway, to be handy for collaring the prospec- 
tive customer, rushed out at me, hands threatening. 
He was of the prevailing racial type. 

"Fix you up wid a dandy suit," he said. 

"What I am looking for," I said, "is something 
second-hand. Do you have any?" I shot this out 
partly as a check. 

"Old man upstairs, fix you up. That door." 

I went through that door and up two flights, to a 
room containing an old man, a sewing machine, and a 
large table covered with old clothing. 

"I 'm looking for something for working-clothes," 
I said; "second-hand coat and pants." 

He lifted a number from the tangled mass of gar- 
ments, and displayed them. They appeared to me too 
clean, too new, too dressy. 

"No," I said, "not that." 

He searched again and came up with a highly 
respectable blue coat, with a mere raveling on one 
sleeve. 

"No," I said, "I '11 find one." 

I fished very deeply, and caught some green pants, 



CAMP EUSTIS 15 

evidently "old" and spattered with white paint on 
the knees. He hastened to point out the white paint. 

I tried to explain that I liked a little white paint on 
my clothes, but saw I was unconvincing. I finally 
bought the suit with a sort of violence for two dollars, 
and left with a sense of fortunate escape. 

Now for a hat. Two blocks down the street I found 
one, somewhat soiled and misshapen. 

"I '11 take that," I said. 

The clerk lifted it, and, when I was fumbling for 
money, brushed off a vast portion of the dirt, and re- 
shaped it into smooth, luxuriant curves. But still I 
bought the hat. 

"At any rate," I thought, "I can restore the thing." 



II 

MOLTEN STEEL AN INITIATION 

AT four o'clock I put on my paint-spattered pants, 
the coat with a conspicuous hole near one of the 
buttons, and my green hat. I climbed the little hill 
before the gate, among leisurely first arrivals, and 
found myself attracting no attention whatsoever. I felt 
for the brass check in my shirt pocket, found it, 
and rebuttoned the pocket. The guard peered into my 
face, as if he were going to ask for a, pass, but did n't. 

I walked the four hundred yards to the open-hearth, 
and noticed clearly for the first time the yard of the 
blooming-mill. Here varied shapes of steel, looking 
as if they weighed several thousand pounds each, 
were issuing from the mill on continuous treads, and 
moving about the yard in a most orderly, but com- 
plex manner. Electric cranes were sweeping over the 
quarter-acre of yard-space, and lifting and piling the 
steel swiftly and precisely on flat cars. 

I entered the open-hearth mill by the tracks that 
ran close to the furnaces. The mill noises broke on 
me: a moan and rattle of cranes overhead, fifty- ton 
ones; the jarring of the train-loads of charge-boxes 
stopping suddenly in front of Number 4; and minor 
sounds like chains jangling on being dropped, or 
gravel swishing out of a box. I was conscious of 



MOLTEN STEEL AN INITIATION 17 

muscles growing tense in the face of this violent en- 
vironment, a somewhat artificial and eager calm. I 
walked with excessive firmness, and felt my person- 
ality contracting itself into the mere sense of sight 
and sound. 

I looked for Pete. 

"He's in his shanty over there, "said an American 
furnace-helper, who was getting into his mill clothes. 

I went after Pete's shanty. It was a sheet-iron box, 
12 by 12, midway down the floor, near a steel beam. 
Pete was coming out, buttoning the lower buttons of a 
blue shirt. He looked through my head and passed 
me, much as he had passed the steel beam. With two 
or three steps I moved out and blocked his way. He 
looked at me, loosened his face, and said very cheer- 
fully: "Hello." 

"I 've come to work," I said. 

"Here," he said, "you '11 work th' pit t' night. Few 
days, y' know, get used ter things." 

He led the way to some iron stairs, and we went 
down together into that darkened region under the 
furnaces, about whose function I had speculated. 

To the left I could make out tracks. Railroads 
seem to run through a steel mill from cellar to attic. 
And at intervals, from above the tracks, torrents of 
sparks swept into the dark, with now and then a small 
stream of yellow fire. 

We stumbled over bricks, mud, clay, a shovel, and 
the railroad track. In front of a narrow curtain of 
molten slag, falling on the floor, we waited for some 
moments. We were under the middle furnaces, I 



i8 STEEL 

calculated. Gradually the curtain ceased, and Pete 
leaped under the hole from which it had come. 

"Watch yourself," he said. 

I followed him with a broad jump, and a prayer 
about the falling slag. 

We came out into the pit, which had so many bright 
centres of molten steel that it was lighter than out- 
doors. I watched Pete's back chiefly, and my own feet. 
We kept stepping between little chunks of dark slag, 
which made your feet hot, and close to a bucket, ten 
feet high, which gave forth smoke. Wheelbarrows 
we met, with and without men, and metal boxes, as 
large as wagons, dropped about a dirt floor. We 
avoided a hole with a fire at its centre. 

At last, at the edge of the pit, near more tracks, we 
ran into the pit gang: eight or ten men, leaning on 
shovels and forks and blinking at the molten metal 
falling into a huge bucket-like ladle. 

:< Y' work here" said Pete, and moved on. 

I remember feeling a half-pleasurable glow as I 
looked about the strenuous environment, of which I 
was to become a part a glow mixed with a touch of 
anxiety as to what I was up against for the next 
fourteen hours. 

Two of the eight men looked at me, and grinned. 
I grinned back and put on my gloves. 

"No. 6 furnace?" I asked, nodding toward the 
stream. 

"Ye-ah," said the man next me. 

He was a cleanly built person, in loose corduroy 
pants, blue shirt open at his neck. Italian. 



MOLTEN STEEL AN INITIATION 19 

He grinned with extraordinary friendliness, and 
said, "First night, this place?" 

"Yes," I returned. 

"Goddam hell of a job," he said, very genially. 

We both turned to look at the stream again. 

For ten minutes we stood and stared. Two men lit 
cigarettes, and sat on a wheelbarrow; four of the 
others had nodded to me; the other three stared. 

I was eager to organize into reasonableness a little 
of this strenuous process that was going forward with 
a hiss and a roar about me. 

"That's the ladle? " I said, to start things. 

:< Ye-ah, w'ere yer see metal come, dat's spout, 
crane tak' him over pour platform, see; pour man 
mak li'l hole in ladle, fill up moul' see de moul' 
on de flat cars? " 

The Italian was a professor to me. I got the place 
named and charted in good shape before the night was 
out. The pit was an area of perhaps half an acre, with 
open sides and a roof. Two cranes traversed its entire 
extent, and a railway passed through its outer edge, 
bearing mammoth moulds, seven feet high above their 
flat cars. Every furnace protruded a spout, and, when 
the molten steel inside was "cooked," tilted back- 
ward slightly and poured into a ladle. A bunch of 
things happened before that pouring. Men appeared 
on a narrow platform with a very twisted railing, near 
the spout, and worked for a time with rods. They 
prodded up inside, till a tiny stream of fire broke 
through. Then you could see them start back in the 
nick of time to escape the deluge of molten steel. The 



20 STEEL 

stream in the spout would swell to the circumference of 
a man's body, and fall into the ladle, that oversized 
bucket thing, hung conveniently for it by the electric 
crane. A dizzy tide of sparks accompanied the stream, 
and shot out quite far into the pit, at times causing 
men to slap themselves to keep their clothing from 
breaking out into a blaze. There were always staccato 
human voices against the mechanical noise, and you 
distinguished by inflection, whether you heard com- 
mand, or assent, or warning, or simply the lubrica- 
tions of profanity. 

As the molten stuff rose toward the top of the ladle, 
curdling like a gigantic pot of oatmeal, somebody 
gave a yell, and slowly, by an entirely concealed 
power, the 250-ton furnace lifted itself erect, and the 
steel stopped flowing down the spout. 

But it splashed and slobbered enormously in the 
ladle at this juncture; a few hundred pounds ran over 
the edge to the floor of the pit. This, when it had 
cooled a little, it would be our job to clean up, sepa- 
rating steel scrap from the slag, and putting it into 
boxes for remelting. 

When a ladle was full, the crane took it gingerly in 
a sweep of a hundred feet through mid-air, and, as 
Fritz said, the men on the pouring platform released 
a stopper from a hole in the bottom, to let out the 
steel. It flowed out in a spurting stream three or four 
inches thick, into moulds that stood some seven feet 
high on flat cars. 

" Clean off the track on Number 7, an' make it fast," 
from the pit boss, accompanied by a neat stream of 



MOLTEN STEEL AN INITIATION 21 

tobacco juice, which began to steam vigorously when 
it struck the hot slag at his feet. 

We passed through to the other side of the furnaces, 
by going under Number 6, a bright fall of sparks from 
the slag-hole just missing the heels of the last man. 

"Is n't that dangerous and unnecessary?" I said 
to myself, angrily. " Why do we have to dodge under 
that slag-hole?" 

We moved in the dark along a track that turned in 
under Seven, into a region of great heat. Before us 
was a small hill of partially cooled slag, blocking the 
track. It was like a tiny volcano, actively fluid in the 
centre, with the edges blackened and hard. 

I found out very quickly the why of this mess. The 
furnace is made to rock forward, and spill out a few 
hundred pounds of the slag that floats on top. A short 
"buggy" car runs under, to catch the flow. But some- 
body had blundered no buggy was there when the 
slag came. 

"Get him up queek, and let buggy come back for 
nex' time," explained an Italian with moustachios, 
who carried the pick. "Huh, whatze matter goddam 
first-helper, letta furnace go?" he added angrily. 
"Lotza work." 

This job took us three hours. The Italian went in 
at once with the pick, and loosened a mass of cinder 
near one of the rails. Fritz and I followed up with 
shovels, hurling the stuff away from the tracks. 

The slag is light, and you can swing a fat shovelful 
with ease; but mixed with it are clumps of steel that 
follow the slag over the furnace doors. It grew hotter 



22 STEEL 

as we worked in three inches of red heat, to a slag 
cake six inches thick. 

"Hose," said someone. The Italian found it in 
back of the next furnace, and screwed it to a spigot 
between the two. We became drowned in steam. 

We had been at it about an hour and a half, and I 
was shoveling back loose cinder, with a little speed to 
get it over with. " Rest yourself," commanded Mous- 
tachios. "Lotza time, lotza time." 

I leaned on my shovel and found rather mixed 
feelings rising inside me. I was a little resentful at 
being told what to do; a little pleased that I was up, 
at least, to the gang standard; a little in doubt as 
to whether we ought not to be working harder; but, 
on the whole, tired enough to dismiss the question 
and lean on my shovel. 

The heat was bad at times (from 120 to 130 de- 
grees when you're right in it, I should guess). It was 
like constantly sticking your head into the fireplace. 
When you had a cake or two of newly turned slag, 
glowing on both sides, you worked like hell to get 
your pick work done and come out. I found a given 
amount of work in heat fatigued at three times the 
rate of the same work in a cooler atmosphere. But it 
was exciting, at all events, and preferable to mo- 
notony. 

We used the crowbar and sledge on the harder 
ledges of the stuff, putting a loose piece under the bar 
and prying. 

When it was well cleared, a puffy switch-engine 
came out of the dark from the direction of Number 4, 



MOLTEN STEEL AN INITIATION 23 

and pushed a buggy under the furnace. The engineer 
was short and jolly-looking, and asked the Italians a 
few very personal questions in a loud ringing voice. 
Everyone laughed, and all but Fritz and I undertook 
a new cheekful of "Honest Scrap." I smoked a Camel 
and gave Fritz one. 

Then Al, the pit boss, came through. He was an 
American, medium husky, cap on one ear, and spat 
through his teeth. I guessed that Al somehow was n't 
as hard-boiled as he looked, and found later that he 
was new as a boss. I concluded that he adopted this 
exterior in imitation of bosses of greater natural gifts 
in those lines, and to give substance to his authority. 
He used to be a workman in the tin mill. 

"All done? If the son of a of a first-helper 

on the furnace had any brains . . ." and so forth. 
"Now get through and clean out the goddam mess in 
front." 

We went through, and Fritz used the pick against 
some very dusty cinder that was entirely cool, and 
was massed in great piles on the front side of the 
slag-hole. 

"Getta wheelbarrow, you" 

I started for the wheelbarrow, just the ghost of a 
resentment rising at being "ordered about" by a 
"Wop" and then fading out into the difficulties I had 
in finding the wheelbarrow. Two or three things that 
day I had been sent for things whose whereabouts 
were a closed book. "Where the devil," I muttered to 
myself, violently disturbed, "are wheelbarrows?" I 
found one, at last, near the masons under Number 4, 
and started off. 



24 STEEL 

"Hey, what the hell? what the hell?" 

So much for that wheelbarrow. 

I found another, behind a box, near Number 8, 
and pushed it back over mud, slag, scrap, and pipes 
and things. I never knew before what a bother a 
wheelbarrow is on an open-hearth pit floor. Only four 
of us stayed for work under Number 7, a German 
laborer and I cooperating with shovel and wheel- 
barrow on the right-hand cinder pile. 

We had been digging and hauling an hour, and it 
was necessary to reach underneath the slag-hole to 
get at what was left. I always glanced upward for 
sparks and slag when shoveling, and allowed only my 
right hand and shovel to pass under. Just as arm and 
shovel went in for a new lot Fritz yelled, "Watch 
out!" I pulled back with a frog's leap, and dodged a 
shaft of fat sparks, spattering on the pit floor. A 
second later, the sparks became a tiny stream, the 
size of a finger, and then a torrent of molten slag, the 
size of an arm. The stuif bounded and splashed vigor- 
ously when it struck the ground. 

It did n't get us, and in a second we both laughed 
from a safe distance. 

"Goddam slag come queek," said Fritz, grinning. 
"How you like job?" he added. 

Before I had any chance to discuss the nuances of a 
clean-up's walk in life, Fritz was pointing out a new 
source of molten danger. 

We were standing now in the main pit, beyond the 
overhanging edge of the furnace. 

"Look out now, zee!" said Fritz, pointing upward. 



MOLTEN STEEL AN INITIATION 25 

Almost over our head was Number 7's spout, and, 
dribbling off the end, another small rope of sparks. 

We fell over each other to the pit's edge, stopping 
when we reached tracks. Looking back at once, we 
saw that the stream had thickened like the other in 
the slag-hole. But here it was molten steel, and with 
a long drop of thirty feet. The rebound of the thud- 
ding molten metal sent it off twenty-five or thirty 
feet in all directions. Three different groups of men 
were backing off toward the edge of the pit. 

The stream swelled steadily till it reached the cir- 
cumference of a man's body, and fell in a thudding 
shaft of metallic flame to the pit's floor. Spatterings 
went out in a moderately symmetrical circle forty 
feet across. The smaller gobs of molten stuff made 
minor centres of spatter of their own. It was a spec- 
tacle that burned easily into memory. 

The gang of men at the edge of the pit watched the 
thing with apparent enjoyment. I wondered slowly 
two things: one, whether anyone ever got caught 
under such a molten Niagara, and two, whether 
the pit was going to have a steel floor before it could 
be stopped. How could it be stopped, anyway? 

The craneman had been busy for some minutes 
picking up a ladle from Number 4, and at that instant 
he swung it under, and the process of steel-flooring 
ceased. 1 

What the devil had happened ? I talked with every- 
body I could as they broke up at the pit's edge. It 

1 1 learned later the flow could have been stopped by simply tilting back the. 
furnace, but the craneman was ready and so brought the ladle up. 



26 STEEL 

was a rare thing I learned: the mud and dolomite 
(a limestone substance) in the tap-hole had not been 
properly packed, and broke through. My compan- 
ions told me about another occasion, some years 
before, when molten steel got loose. It happened on 
the Bessemer furnaces, and the workers had n't 
either the luck or agility of ourselves. It caught 
twenty-four men in the flow killed and buried 
them. The company, with a sense of the proprieties, 
waited until the families of the men moved before 
putting the scrap, which contained them, back into 
the furnace for remelting. 

As I ate three bowls of oatmeal at the Greek's, at 
7.15, I thought, "Those fellows do these shifts, year 
after year. What does the heat, and the danger, and 
the work do to them? Maybe they 'get used to' the 
whole business. Will I?" 

I went to bed at 8.05, and all impressions faded 
from consciousness, except weariness, and lame arms, 
and a burn on each ankle. 

After two or three days in the pit, I began to know 
the gang a little by name and character. There was 
Marco, a young Croat of twenty-four, who had start- 
ed to teach me Croatian in return for some necessary 
American; Fritz, a German with the Wanderlust; 
Adam, an aristocratic person, very mature, and with 
branching moustachios; Peter, a Russian of infinite 
good-nature; and a quiet-eyed Pole, who was saving 
up two hundred dollars to go to the old country. 



MOLTEN STEEL AN INITIATION 27 

For several days it was impossible to break into 
Adam's circle of friends; he would talk and work only 
with veteran clean-ups, and showed immense pom- 
posity in a knowing way of hooking up slag and scrap 
to the crane. One day, however, I found him work- 
ing alone with a wheelbarrow, cleaning cinder from 
around a buggy car under furnace No. 8. He looked 
over at me as I passed, and yelled: "Hey, you!" 

He wanted my assistance on the wheelbarrow. We 
worked together for an hour or so, and' I felt that 
perhaps the ice was broken. 

"Did you ever work on the floor?" I asked. 

:< Two years," he said; "no good." 

A little later I talked to Marco about him. 

"Hell," he said, "he got fired from furnace, for too 
goddam lazy." I felt less hurt at his snobbishness 
after that. 

Marco and I became good chums. We sat on a 
wheelbarrow one day, after finishing a job on the 
track under Six. 

^You teach me American," he said; "I teach you 
'"Croatian." 

"Damn right," I said; and we began on the parts 
of our body, and the clothing we wore, drawing out 
some of the words in the dirt with a stick, or mark- 
ing them with charcoal on a board. 

"Did you ever go to school in America?" I asked. 

* Three month, night school, Pittsburgh. Too 
much, work all day, twelve hour, go to school night, 3 
he said. 



28 STEEL 

"Do you save any money? Got any in the bank?" 
I asked, feeling a little fatherly, and wondering on 
the state of his economic virtues. 

"Hell, no," he said; "I don' want money in bank, 
jes nuff get along on." 

I talked to a good many on the savings question, 
and found the young men very often did n't save, but 
" bummed round," while practically all the " Hunkies " 
of twenty-eight or thirty and over saved very success- 
fully. A German who put scrap in the charge-boxes, 
after the magnet had dropped it, had saved 34000 and 
invested it. One man said to me: "A good job, save 
money, work all time, go home, sleep, no spend." 
Speaking of the German, "He no drink, no spend." 
The savers, I think, are apt to be the single men who 
return to their own country in ten or fifteen years. 

I came out of the mill one morning after a night- 
shift, with an appetite that made me run from the rail- 
road bridge to Main Street. I went to the Hotel 
Bouton, where the second-helper on Eight usually 
eats, and started at the beginning, with pears. I ate 
the cereal, eggs, potatoes, toast, coffee, and griddle- 
cakes, taking seconds and thirds when I could nego- 
tiate them the Bouton is stingy under a new man- 
agement, probably finding that steel-workers eat up 
the profit. I got up from the table feeling as hungry 
as when I sat down, and went to the restaurant just 
two doors below unpalatable, but serving fairly 
large portions. There I had another breakfast: coffee, 
oatmeal, eggs. I felt decidedly better after that, and 
started home in good humor. But by the time I 



MOLTEN STEEL AN INITIATION 29 

reached the window of Tom, the Wiener man, I felt 
that there was room for improvement, and looked in 
my pocketbook to see if I had any breakfast money 
left. I had n't a cent, but there were quantities of 
two-cent stamps. I went in and sat down at Tom's 
counter, where I ate a bowl of cereal and a glass of 
milk. Then I opened my purse. In a moment or two 
I convinced Tom that two-cent stamps were good 
legal tender, and went home. 



Ill 

THE OPEN-HEARTH NIGHT-SHIFTS 

"HAVE a cigarette, Pete," I said, offering a Camel 
to a very fat and boyish-looking Russian. 

"No t'ank." 

"What, no smoke?" I asked, incredulous. 

"No, no smoke." 

"No drink?" I asked, wondering if I had found a 
Puritan. 

"Oh, drink" he said with profound emphasis; and 
continuing, he told me of other solaces he found in 
this mortal life. 

"Look!" cried some one. 

Herb, the craneman, in a fit of extreme playfulness 
had thrown some wet green paint forty feet through 
the air at the pit boss, greening the whole side of his 
face. Al was doing a long backward dodge, and slap- 
ping a hand to his painted face, supposing it a draught 
of hot metal. When he perceived that he was n't 
killed, he picked up cinder-hunks and bombarded the 
crane-box. It sounded like hail on tin. 

Pete, the Russian melter, came out on the gallery 
behind the furnaces, and I could see by the way he 
looked the pit over, that he was picking a man for 
furnace work. Somebody had stayed out and they 
were short a helper. He looked at the fat workman 
beside me, and then grunted. 



THE OPEN-HEARTH 31 

This was the third time he had picked Russians in 
preference to the rest of us, who are Serbian, Austrian, 
and American. 

The next day I went on the floor, and tackled Pete. 

"How about a chance on the floor?" I said, stand- 
ing in front of him to keep him from lurching away. 
C Y' get chance 'miff, don' worry." 

"If I can't get a crack at learning this game in 
Bouton, I '11 go somewhere I can," I said, boiling up 
a little. 

Dick Reber, the Pennsylvania-Dutch melter, came 
up. 

"I want a chance on the floor," I said. 

"All right, boy, go on Number 7 to-day." 

I made all speed to Number 7. "Is he doing that," 
I thought, as I picked up my shovel, "because I'm 
an American? " 

I looked up and saw the big ladle-bucket pouring 
hot metal into a spout in the furnace-door, accom- 
panied by a great swirl of sparks and flame, spurting 
upward with a sizzle. 

"At last," I said, "I 'm going to make steel." 

The steel starts in as "scrap" in the mill-yard. 
Scrap from anywhere in America; a broken casting, 
the size of a man's trunk, down to corroded pipe, or 
strips the thickness of your nail, salvaged in bales. 
The overhead crane gathers them all from arriving 
flat cars by a magnet as big as a cart wheel, and the 
pieces of steel leap to meet it with apparent joy, stick 
stoutly for a moment, and fall released into iron 



32 STEEL 

charge-boxes. By trainloads they pass out of the stock- 
yard and into the mill, where the track runs directly 
in front of the furnace-doors. There the charging- 
machine dumps them quickly into the belly of the 
furnace. It does its work with a single iron finger, 
about ten feet long and nearly a foot thick, lifting 
the box by a cleat on the end, and poking it swiftly 
into the flaming door. Old furnaces charged by hand 
hold from twenty-five to thirty-five tons; new ones, 
up to two hundred and fifty. 

That is the first step in starting to make a "heat," 
which means cook a bellyful to the proper temper- 
ature for steel, ready to tap into a ladle for ingot- 
making. Next comes "making front-wall," which signi- 
fies that no self-respecting brick, clay, or any other 
substance, can stand a load of metal up to steel-heat 
without being temporarily relined right away for the 
next draft of flame. We do that relining by shovel- 
ing dolomite into the furnace. The official known as 
second-helper wields a Brobdingnag spoon, about 
two inches larger than a dinner-plate and fifteen feet 
long, which a couple of third-helpers, among them 
myself, fill with dolomite. By use of the spoon, he 
carefully spreads the protection over the front-wall. 

But the sporting job on the open-hearth comes a 
bit later, and consists in "making back-wall." Then 
all the men on the furnace and all the men on your 
neighbor's furnace form a dolomite line, and march- 
ing in file to the open door, fling their shovelfuls 
across the flaming void to the back-wall. It's not 
a beginner's job. You must swing your weapon 



THE OPEN-HEARTH 33 , 

through a wide arc, to give it "wing," and the stuff 
must hop off just behind the furnace-door and rise 
high enough to top the scrap between, and land high. 
I say it's not a beginner's job, though it 's like golf 
the first shovelful may be a winner. What lends life 
to the sport is the fact that everybody J s in it 
it's the team play of the open-hearth, like a house- 
raising in the community. 

Another thing giving life is the heat. The mouth of 
the furnace gapes it widest, and you must hug close 
in order to get the stuff across. Every man has deeply 
smoked glasses on his nose when he faces the furnace. 
He's got to stare down her throat, to watch where the 
dolomite lands. It's up to him to place his stuff 
the line is n't marching through the heat to warm its 
hands. Here's a tip I didn't "savvy" on my first 
back-wall. Throw your left arm high at the end of 
your arc, and in front of your face; it will cut the heat 
an instant, and allow you to see if you have "placed" 
without flinching. It's really not brawn, making 
back-wall, but a nimble swing and a good eye, 
and the art of not minding heat. 

After that is done, she can cook for a while and 
needs only watching. The first-helper gives her that, 
passing up and down every few minutes to look 
through the peepholes in her furnace-doors. He puts 
his glasses down on his nose, inspects the brew, and 
notices if her stomach's in good shape. If the bricks 
get as red as the gas flame, she's burning the living 
lining out of her. But he keeps the gas blowing in her 
ends, as hot as she'll stand it without a holler. On 



34 STEEL 

either end the gas, and on top of it the air. The first- 
helper, who is cook of the furnace, makes a proper 
mixture out of them. The hotter he can let the gas 
through, the quicker the brew is cooked, and the more 
"tonnage" he'll make that week. 

"Get me thirty thousand pounds," said the first- 
helper when I was on the furnace that first night. 
Fifteen tons of molten metal! I was undecided 
whether to bring it in a dipper or in my hat. But it 's 
no more than running upstairs for a handkerchief in 
the bureau. You climb to a platform near the blower, 
where the stuif is made, and find a man there with a 
book. Punch him in the arm and say, "Thirty thou' 
for Number 7. " He will swear moderately and blow 
a whistle. You return to the furnace, and on your 
heels follows a locomotive dragging a bucket, the ladle, 
ten feet high. Out of it arise the fumes of your fifteen 
tons of hot metal. The overhead crane picks it up and 
pours it through a spout into the furnace. As it goes 
in, you stand and direct the pouring. The craneman, 
as he tilts or raises the bucket, watches you for direc- 
tions, and you stand and make gentle motions with 
one hand, thus easily and simply controlling the flux 
of the fifteen tons. That part of the job always 
pleased me. It was like modeling Niagara with a 
wave of the hand. Sometimes he spills a little, and 
there is a vortex of sparks, and much molten metal 
in front of the door to step on. 

She cooks in anywhere from ten hours to twenty- 
four. The record on this floor is ten, which was put 



THE OPEN-HEARTH 35 

over by Jock. He has worked on most of the open- 
hearths, I learn, from Scotland to Colorado. 

When it's time for a test, the first-helper will take a 
spoon about the size of your hand and scoop up some 
of the soup. But not to taste. He pours it into a 
mould, and when the little ingot is cool, breaks it with 
a sledge. Everyone on the furnace, barring myself, 
looks at the broken metal and gives a wise smile. I 'm 
not enough of a cook. They know by the grain if she 
has too much carbon or needs more, or is ready to 
tap, or is n't. With too much carbon, she '11 need a 
"jigger," which is a few more tons of hot metal, to 
thin her out. 

That 's about the whole game abbreviated up 
to tap-time. It takes, on an average, eighteen hours, 
and your shift may be anything from ten to twenty- 
four. Of course, there are details, like shoveling in 
fluor-spar to thin out the slag. Be sure you clear the 
breast of the furnace, with your shovelful, when you 
put that into her. Spar eats the dolomite as mice eat 
cheese. 

At intervals the first-helper tilts the whole furnace 
forward, and she runs out at the doors, which is to 
drain off the slag that floats on top of the brew. But 
after much weariness it's tap-time and the "big boss" 
comes to supervise. 

Move aside the shutters covering the round peep- 
holes on her doors, at this time, and you '11 see the 
brew bubbling away like malt breakfast-food ready to 
eat. But there's a lot of testing before serving. When 



36 STEEL 

it is ready, you run to the place where you hid your 
little flat manganese shovel and take it to the gallery 
back of the furnace, near the tap-spout. There you 
can look down on the pit strewn with those giant 
bucket-ladles and sprinkled with the clean-up men, 
who gather painfully all that's spilled or slobbered of 
hot metal, and save it for a second melting. The 
whole is swept by the omnipresent crane. 

At a proper and chosen instant, the senior melter 
shouts, "Heow!" and the great furnace rolls on its 
side on a pair of mammoth rockers, and points a clay 
spout into the ladle held for it by the crane. Before 
the hot soup comes rushing, the second-helper has to 
"ravel her out." That function of his almost de- 
stroyed my ambition .to learn the steel business. 
Raveling is poking a pointed rod up the tap-spout, 
till the stopping is prodded away. You never know 
when the desired but terrific result is accomplished. 
When it is, he retires as you would from an explod- 
ing oil-well. The brew is loose. It comes out, red and 
hurling flame. Into the ladle it falls with a hiss and a 
terrifying "splunch." The first and second helpers 
immediately make matters worse. They stagger up 
with bags (containing fine anthracite) and drop them 
into the mess. They have a most damning effect. 
The flames hit the roof of the pit, and sway and curl 
angrily along the frail platform on which you stand. 
Some occult reasoning tells them how many of these 
bags to drop in, whether to make a conflagration or 
a moderate house-burning. 

The melter waits a few minutes and then shouts 



THE OPEN-HEARTH 37 

your cue. You and another helper run swiftly along 
the gallery to the side of the spout. At your feet is a 
pile of manganese, one of the heaviest substances in 
the world, and seeming heavier than that. It's your 
job and your helper's to put the pile into the cauldron. 
And you do it with all manner of speed. The tap 
stream at steel heat is three feet from your face, 
and gas and sparks come up as the stream hits the 
ladle. You're expected to get it in fast. You do. 

There are almost always two ladles to fill, but you 
have a "spell" between. When she's tapped, you 
pick up a piece of sheet iron and cover the spout with 
it. That 's another job to warm frost-bitten fingers. 
Use gloves and wet burlap it preserves the hands 
for future use. 

One more step, and the brew is an ingot. There are 
several tracks entering the pit, and at proper seasons 
a train of cars swings in, bringing the upright ingot 
moulds. They stand about seven feet high from their 
flats. When the ladle is full and slobbering a bit, the 
craneman swings her gingerly over the first mould. 
Level with the ladle's base, and above the train of 
moulds, runs the pouring platform, on which the 
ingot-men stand. 

By means of rods a stopper is released from a small 
hole in the bottom of the ladle. In a few seconds the 
stream fills a mould, and the attendant shuts off the 
steel like a boy at a spigot. The ladle swings gently 
down the line, and the proper measure of metallic 
flame squirts into each mould. A trainload of steel 
is poured in a few minutes. 



38 STEEL 

But this is when all omens are propitious. It 's when 
the stopper-man has made no mistakes. But when 
rods jam and the stopper won't stop, watch your step, 
and cover your face. That fierce. little stream keeps 
coming, and nothing that the desperate men on the 
pouring platform can do seems likely to stem it. Soon 
one mould is full. But the ladle continues to pour, with 
twenty tons of steel to go. It can't be allowed to make 
a steel floor for the pit. It must get into those moulds. 

So the craneman swings her on to the next mould, 
with the stream aspurt. It 's like taking water from 
the teakettle to the sink with a punctured dipper: 
half goes on the kitchen floor. But the spattering of 
molten metal is much more exciting. A few little clots 
affect the flesh like hot bullets. So, when the crane- 
man gets ready to swing the little stream down the 
line, the workers on the platform behave like fright- 
ened fishes in a mill pond. Then, while the mould fills, 
they come back, to throw certain ingredients into the 
cooling metal. 

These ingots, when they come from the moulds 
virgin steel, are impressive things especially on the 
night turn. Then each stands up against the night air 
like a massive monument of hardened fire. Pass near 
them, and see what colossal radiators of heat they 
are. Trainloads of them pass daily out of the pit to 
the blooming-mill* to catch their first transformation. 
But my spell with them is done. 

I stood behind the furnace near the spout, which 
still spread a wave of heat about it, and Nick, the 



THE OPEN-HEARTH 39 

second-helper, beside me yelling things in Anglo- 
Serbian, into my face. He was a loose-limbed, sallow- 
faced Serbian, with black hair under a green-visored 
cap, always on the back of his head. His shirt was 
torn on both sleeves and open nearly to his waist, 
and in the uncertain lights of the mill his chest and ab- 
domen shone with sweat. 

"Goddam you, what you think. Get me" a long 
blur of Serbian, here "spout, quick mak a" 
more Serbian with tremendous volume of voice 
"furnace, see? You get that goddam mud!" 

When a man says that to you with profound emo- 
tion, it seems insulting, to say, "What" to it. But that 
was what I did. 

"All right, all right," he said; "what the hell, me 
get myself, all the work" blurred here "son of 

a third-helper wheelbarrow, why don ' you 

quick now when I say /" 

"All right, all right, I'll do it," I said, and went 
away. I was never in my life so much impressed with 
the necessity of doing it. His language and gesture had 
been profoundly expressive of what? I tried to con- 
centrate on the phrases that seeped through emotion 
and Serbian into English. "Wheelbarrow" hang 
on to that; "mud" that's easy: a wheelbarrow of 
mud. Good ! 

I got it at the other end of the mill opposite 
Number 4. 

"Hey! don't use that shovel for mud!" said the 
second-helper on Number 4. 

So I did n't. 



40 STEEL 

I wheeled back to the gallery behind Seven, and 
found Nick coming out at me. When he saw that 
hard-won mud of mine, I thought he was going to 
snap the cords in his throat. 

" Goddam it! " he said, when articulation returned, 
"I tell you, get wheelbarrow dolomite, and half- 
wheelbarrow clay, and pail of water, and look what 
you bring, goddam it!" 

So that was it he probably said pail of water 
with his feet. 

"Oh, all right," I said, smiling like a skull; "I 
thought you said mud. I '11 get it, I '11 get it." 

This is amusing enough on the first day; you can go 
off and laugh in a superior way to yourself about the 
queer words the foreigners use. But after seven days 
of it, fourteen hours each, it gets under the skin, it 
burns along the nerves, as the furnace heat burns 
along the arms when you make back-wall. It suddenly 
occurred to me one day, after someone had bawled me 
out picturesquely for not knowing where something 
was that I had never heard of, that this was what 
every immigrant Hunky endured; it was a matter of 
language largely, of understanding, of knowing the 
names of things, the uses of things, the language of 
the boss. Here was this Serbian second-helper boss- 
ing his third-helper largely in an unknown tongue, 
and the latter getting the full emotional experience 
of the immigrant. I thought of Bill, the pit boss, tell- 
ing a Hunky to do a clean-up job for him; and when 
the Hunky said, "What? " he turned to me and said: 
"Lord! but these Hunkies are dumb." 



THE OPEN-HEARTH 41 

Most of the false starts, waste motion, misunder- 
standings, fights, burnings, accidents, nerve-wrack, 
and desperation of soul would fall away if there were 
understanding a common language, of mind as well 
as tongue. 

But then, I thought, all this may be because I'm 
oversensitive. I had this qualm till one day I met 
Jack. He was an old regular-army sergeant, a man 
about thirty. He had come back from fixing a bad 
spout. They had sledged it out sledged through 
the steel that had crept into the dolomite and closed 
the tap-hole. 

"Do you ever feel low?" he said, sitting down on 
the back of a shovel. "Every once'n while I feel like 
telling 'em to take their job and go to hell with it; 
you strain your guts out, and then they swear at 
you." 

"I sometimes feel like a worm," I said, "with no 
right to be living any way, or so mad I want to lick 
the bosses and the president." 

"If you were first-helper, it would n't be so bad," 
he mused; "you would n't have to bring up that 
damn manganese in a wheelbarrow and they 
would n't kick you round so much." "Will I ever get 
that job?" 

We were washing up at one end of the mill, near 
the Bessemers. There was plenty of hot water, and 
good broad sinks. I took off my shirt and threw it on 
top of a locker; the cinder on the front and sleeves 
had become mud. 



42 STEEL 

Forty men stood up to the sinks, also with their shirts 
off, their arms and faces and bodies covered with soap, 
and saying: "Ah, ooh," and "ffu," with the other 
noises a man makes when getting clean. Every now 
and then somebody would look into a three-cornered 
fragment of looking-glass on one of the lockers, and 
return to apply soap and a scrubbing-brush to the 
bridge of his nose. 

A group of Slovene boys, who worked on the Bes- 
semer, picked on one of their number, and covered 
him with soap and American oaths. Somebody told 
an obscene story loudly in broken English. 

The men who had had a long turn or a hard one 
washed up silently, except for excessive outbreaks if 
anybody took their soap. Some few hurried, and left 
grease or soot on their hands or under their eyes. 

"I wash up a little here," said Fred, the American 
first-helper on Number 7, " and the rest at home. Once 
after a twenty-four hour shift, I fell asleep in the bath- 
tub, and woke up to find the water cold. Of course, 
you can 't really get this stuff off in one or two wash- 
ups. It gets under your skin. When the furnace used 
to get down for repairs, and we were laid off, I 'd be 
clean at the end of a week." He laughed and went off. 

I had scraped most of the soot from arms and chest, 
and was struggling desperately with the small of my 
back. A thick-chested workman at the next bowl, with 
fringes of gray hair, and a scar on his cheek, grabbed 
the brush out of my hand. 

"Me show you how we do in coal-mine," he said; 
and proceeded vigorously to grind the bristles into 



THE OPEN-HEARTH 43 

my back, and get up a tremendous lather, that dripped 
down on my trousers to the floor. 

"You wash your buddy's back, buddy wash yours," 
he said. 

I went out of the open-hearth shelter slowly, and 
watched the line nearly a quarter of a mile long 
of swinging dinner-buckets. Some were large and 
round, and had a place on top for coffee; some were 
circular and long; some were flat and square. I looked 
at the men. They were the day-shift coming in. 

"I have finished," I said to myself automatically. 
"I'm going to eat and go to bed. I don't have to 
work now." 

I looked at the men again. Most of them were 
hurrying; their faces carried yesterday's fatigue and 
last year's. Now and then I saw a man who looked as 
if he could work the turn and then box a little in the 
evening for exercise. There were a few men like that. 
The rest made me think strongly of a man holding 
himself from falling over a cliff, with fingers that 
paralyzed slowly. 

I stepped on a stone and felt the place on my heel 
where the limestone and sweat had worked together, 
to make a burn. I 'd be hurrying in at 5.00 o'clock that 
day, and they 'd be going home. It was now 7.20. 
That would be nine and a half hours hence. I had 
to eat twice, and buy a pair of gloves, and sew up 
my shirt, and get sleep before then. I lived twenty 
minutes from the mill. If I walk home, as fast as 
I can drive my legs and bolt breakfast, seven hours is 



44 STEEL 

all I can work in before 3.30. I '11 have to get up then 
to get time for dinner, fixing up my shirt, and the walk 
to the mill. 

I wonder how long this night-shift of gray-faced 
men, with different-sized dinner-buckets, will be mov- 
ing out toward the green gate, and the day-shift com- 
ing in at the green gate how many years ? 

The car up from the nail mill stopped just before it 
dove under the railroad bridge. 

"I'm in luck." 

I suddenly had a vision of how the New York sub- 
way looked: its crush, its noise, its overdressed Jews, 
its speed, its subway smell. I looked around inside 
the clattering trolley-car. Nobody was talking. The 
car was filled for the most part with Slavs, a few 
Italians, and some negroes from the nail mill. Every- 
one, except two old men of unknown age, was under 
thirty-five. They held their buckets on their laps, or 
put them on the floor between their legs. Six or eight 
were asleep. The rest sat quiet, with legs and neck 
loose, with their eyes open, steady, dull, fixed upon 
nothing at all. 



IV 
EVERYDAY LIFE 

I CAME into the mill five minutes late one morn- 
ing, and went to the green check-house at the gate, 
to pick 1611, the numerical me, from the hook. A 
stumpy man in a chair looked up and said: "What 
number?" 

I gave it. "An easy way to lose forty-three cents," 
I thought, feeling a little sore at the stumpy man, and 
going out through the door slowly. 

I increased my step along the road to the open- 
hearth, and reached my locker just as the Pole who 
shared it was leaving. 

"Goddam gloves! " he was saying. "Pay thirty-five 
cents three days goddam it all gone too 
much. What you think?" 

"I think the leather ones at fifty cents last better," 
I said. 

He made a guttural noise, signifying disgust, and 
left. 

I opened the locker, and disentangled my working- 
clothes, still damp from the last shift, from the Pole's. 
I removed all my "good" clothes, and stood for a 
minute naked and comfortable. The thermometer 
had registered 95 when I got up, at 4.00. 

For the past few days I had been demoted to the pit; 



46 STEEL 

there had been no jobs open on the floor. As I took 
up my gloves and smoked glasses, I wondered how I 
could get back to furnace work. 

Pete was moving with his lurching short steps past 
Six. 

"How about helping to-day on the floor?" I said. 

He snapped back quickly in his blurred voice, 
"You work th' pit, tell y' goddam quick, want y' 
on the floor." 

I looked back at him, swore to myself, and went 
slowly down the pit stairs. 

I could n't find the gang at first, but later found 
half of them: Peter the Russian, the short Wop, the 
Aristocrat, and a couple more, all under furnace 
Eight, cleaning out cinder. The Aristocrat was trying 
to get the craneman to bring up one of the long boxes 
with curved bottoms for slag. The craneman was damn- 
ing him. There was one too many at the job, four 
is enough to clean cinder, so I threw a bit of slag 
at Peter (for old time's sake) and passed on. 

I met Al, and said, "Where are they working?" 

"Clean up the pipes," he said. 

The Croat, Marco, Joe, and Fritz were at Number 
6, with forks. You see, the pipes run up the ladle's 
side and release a stopper for pouring the steel. They 
are covered with fire clay, which is destroyed after 
one or two ladlings and has to be knocked off and re- 
placed. We loosened the clay with sledges, and Marco 
watered down the pipes with a hose, to cool them. 
They were moderately warm when Fritz and I started 
piling them on the truck. Once or twice the pipe 



EVERYDAY LIFE 47 

touched Fritz's hand through a hole in his glove, and 
he yowled, and then laughed. Once or twice I yowled 
and laughed also. 

When we piled near the top, we swung in unison, 
and tossed the pipe into the air. It was like piling 
wood. 

I caught a torn piece of my pants on a sharp bit 
of slag while carrying two pipes, and acquired a rip 
halfway from pocket to knee. Marco had a safety pin 
for me at once; he kept emergency ones in his shirt- 
front. 

We finished the job in half an hour, and pushed the 
truck till it came under jurisdiction of a crane. Marco 
fixed the hooks rather officiously, pushing Fritz and 
me aside. There is, I suppose, more snobbishness in- 
duced by the manner of crane-hooking than in any 
other pit function. The crane swung the pipes on 
holders and dropped them in front of the blacksmith 
shop. We carried them into the shop, Marco and I 
working together. Inside there were half a dozen 
small forges, some benches, and a drop hammer. It 
was the place where ladles and spoons were repaired. 
The blacksmiths and helpers gave us friendly, but 
condescending glances. 

As we walked back, we saw the crane swing a ladle 
from the moulds into which it had been pouring to- 
ward the dumping pit in front of Five. When the 
giant bucket approached, the chain hooked to the 
bottom lifted slowly, and dregs half-steel, half-ash, 
rolled out into the dump. After a little cooling, we 
would clean up there. With the chain released, the 



48 STEEL 

bucket righted itself with a shuddering clank, and 
swayed in the air scattering bits of slag and burnt fire 
clay. 

A little later, we did a three-hour job on those dregs. 
We loosened the slag with picks first, and then lifted 
forkfuls and shovelfuls into the crane-carried boxes. 
A good deal of scrap was in the lot, probably the mak- 
ings of half a ton 'of steel. This, of course., went into a 
separate box. I hooked up a couple of big scrap-hunks, 
weighing perhaps 500 pounds each, and took some 
sport out of it. That is one small matter, at least, 
where a grain of judgment and ingenuity has place. A 
badly hooked scrap-hunk may fall and break a neck, or 
simply tumble and waste everybody's time. Loosen- 
ing up with the pick, too, demands a slight knack and 
smacks faintly of the miner's skill. We had to go 
down into a pit, where there was heated slag on all 
sides, using boards to save scorching our shoe leather. 
In turning up fractures eight or ten inches thick, there 
would be an inner four inches still red-hot. 

At eleven o'clock, I was working at a fair pace, 
flinging moderately husky forkfuls over a ten-foot 
space into the box, when Marco looked up. 

"Hey," he called. 

I glanced at him for a moment. He was smiling. 
"Rest yourself," he said; "we work hard when de big 
bosses come." 

During the next fifty shovelfuls, the remark went 
the rounds of my head, trying to get condemned. My 
memory threw up articles in the "Quarterly Journal 
of Economics," with "inefficiency and the labor- 



EVERYDAY LIFE 49 

slackers," and "moral irresponsibility of the worker 
on the job," and so forth, in them. A couple of ser- 
mons and a vista of editorial denunciations of the 
laboring man who is no longer willing to do "an hon- 
est day's work for an honest day's pay," seemed to 
bring additional pressure for righteors indignation. 
I asked the following questions of myself, one for every 
two forkfuls : 

"Is n't it morally a bad thing to soldier, anyway? 

"Is Marco a moral enormity? 

"Do business men soldier? 

"Is n't 'Get to hell out of here if you don't want to 
work ' the answer ? Or has the twelve-hour day some- 
thing to do with it? 

"Can these five or six thousand unskilled workmen 
take any interest in their work, or must they go at it 
with a consciousness similar to that of the slaves who 
put up the Pyramids? " 

I had to use the pick at this point, which broke up 
the inquiry, and I left the questions unanswered. 

I saw wheelbarrowing ahead for the afternoon, and 
corralled the only one properly balanced, when I 
started work at 1.00 p. M., keeping it near me during a 
scrap-picking hour, until the job should break. At 
2.15, it did. Al said: "Get over and clean out under 
Seven. If we can ever get this goddam stuff cleaned 
out - That was an optimism of Al's. 

One of the new men and I worked together all after- 
noon : pick at the slag, shovel, wheelbarrow, dump in 
the box, hook up to crane. Start over. There was a 



50 STEEL 

lot of dolomite and old fine cinder, very dusty, but not 
hot. This change in discomfort furnished a sensation 
almost pleasurable. I found out that everyone hid 
his shovel at the end of the shift, beside piles of brick 
in the cellar of the mill, under dark stairways, and 
so forth. I had n't yet acquired one, but used most- 
ly a fork, which is n't so personal an instrument, and 
of which there seemed to be a common supply. I felt 
keen to "acquire" though. 

After supper, I wrote in my diary and thought a 
bit before going to bed. There 's a genuine technique 
of the shovel, the pick, and especially of the wheel- 
barrow, I thought. That damn plank from the ground 
to the cinder-box! It takes all I can muster to teeter 
the wheelbarrow up, dump without losing the thing 
quite, and bring it down backward without barking 
my shins. There 's a bit of technique, too, in pairing 
off properly for a job, selecting your lick of work 
promptly and not getting left jobless to the eyes of 
the boss, capturing your shovel and hiding it at the 
end of the turn, keeping the good will of the men 
you 're with on team-work, distinguishing scrap from 
cinder and putting them into the proper boxes, not 
digging for slag too deeply in the pit floor, and so 
forth and so on. 

I wonder if I shall learn Serbian, or Russian, or 
Hungarian ? There seems to be a Slavic polyglot that 
any one of a half-dozen nationalities understands. 
That word, "Tchekai! Watch out!" even the 
Americans use it. It's a word that is crying in your 



EVERYDAY LIFE 51 

ears all night. Watch out for the crane that is taking 
a ladle of hot metal over your head, or a load of scrap, 
or a bundle of pipes; watch out for the hot cinder 
coming down the hole from the furnace-doors; watch 
out for "me" while I get this wheelbarrow by; and 
"Heow! Tchekai!" for the trainload of hot ingots 
that passes your shoulder. 

I set my alarm for five o'clock, and got into bed 
with the good-night thought of "The devil with Pete 
Grayson! I'll get on that furnace!" 

Another day went by, hewing cinders in the pit. I 
tried to figure to myself persuasive or threatening 
things I could say to the melters, to let me work on 
the floor. A shrewd-looking little man with mousta- 
chios worked near me. 

"Did you ever work on the floor? " I asked. 

"Oh, yes," he said: "too much hot; to hell with the 
money!" 

They pay you two cents more an hour on the floor. 
At twenty minutes to five I went upstairs to my 
locker. Dick Reber, senior melter, stopped me. 

"Need a man to-night; want to work?" he said; 
"always short, you know, on this long turn." 

"Sure," I said. 

That was one way to get promoted, I thought, and 
wondered how I 'd stand fourteen more hours on top 
of the ten I had had. 

"Beat it," yelled the melter. 

Jack and I got our flat manganese shovels, and 



52 STEEL 

went on the run to the gallery. We were tapping at 
last. This furnaceful had cooked twenty-two hours. 
Nick was kneeling on water-soaked bagging, on the 
edge of the hot spout. He dug out the mud in the tap- 
hole with a pointed rod and sputtered oaths at the 
heat. Every few minutes the spout would burn 
through the bagging to his knees. He would get up, 
refold the bagging, and kneel again to the job. 

Finally the metal gurgled out, a small stream the 
size of two fingers. Nick dodged back, and it swelled 
to a six-inch torrent. 

"Heow, crane!" 

Pete Grayson had come out, and was bawling some- 
thing very urgently at the pit crane. The ladle swung 
closer; we could feel the increased wave of heat. 

He looked over at us and held up two fingers. That 
meant both piles of manganese that lay on the gallery 
next the crane were to be shoveled in double time 
for us, in the heat. 

"Heow!" yelled the melter. 

Jack and I leaped forward to the manganese, and 
our shovels scraped on the iron gallery. I saw Jack 
slapping his head to put out a little fire that had 
started on the handkerchief wound round his neck. 
I slapped a few sparks that stung my right leg. We 
finished half the pile. 

There was something queer about this heat. The 
soles of my feet why in hell should the gallery burn 
so! There was a blazing gas in the air my nostrils 
seemed to flame as they took it in. This was different 
from most manganese shoveling. My face glowed all 



EVERYDAY LIFE 53 


over in single concentrated pain. What was it? I saw 

Jack shoveling wildly in the middle of that second 
pile. We finished it in a panic. 

"What was the matter with that damn ladle?" I 
asked as we got our breath in the opening between the 
furnaces. 

" Spout had a goddam hole in the middle," he said; 
"ladle underneath, see?' 3 

I did. The fire-clay of the spout had given way, and 
a hole forming in the middle let the metal through. 
That made it necessary, in order to catch the steel, to 
bring the ladle close, till part of it was under the plat- 
form on which we worked. The heat and gas from the 
hot steel in the ladle had been warming the soles of 
our feet, and rising into our faces. 

"Here's a funny thing," I said, looking down. One 
of the sparks which had struck my pants burned 
around, very neatly taking off the cuff and an inch or 
two of the pant-leg. The thing might have been done 
with a pair of shears. 

I came out of the mill whistling and feeling pretty 
much "on the crest." I'd worked their damn "long 
turn," and stood it. It was n't so bad, all except that 
ladle that got under the manganese. I ate a huge 
breakfast, with a calm sense of virtue rewarded, and 
climbed into bed with a smile on my lips. 

The alarm clock had been ringing several minutes 
before I realized what it was up to. I turned over to 
shut it off, and found needles running into all the 
muscles of my back. I struggled up on an elbow. I 
had a "hell of a head." The alarm was still going. 



54 STEEL 

I fought myself out of bed and shut it off; stood up 
and tried to think. Pretty soon a thought came over 
me like an ache : it was " Fourteen hours! " That was 
beginning in fifty-five minutes fourteen hours of 
back-walls, and hot ladles, and Oh, hell! I sat 
down again on the bed, and prepared to lift my feet 
back in. 

Then I got up, and washed fiercely, threw on my 
clothes, and went downstairs, and out into the after- 
noon sun. 

Down by the restaurant, I met the third-helper on 
Eight. 

"Long turn would n't be so bad, if there were n't 
no next day," he said, with a sort of smile. 

In the mill was a gang of malignant men; things all 
went wrong; everybody was angry and tired; their 
nerves made mistakes for them. 

"I only wish it were next Sunday!" I said to 
someone. 

"There are n't any goddam Sundays in this place," 
he returned. "Twenty-four hours off between two 
working days ain't Sunday." 

I thought that over. The company says they give 
you one day off every two weeks. But it's not like a 
day off anywhere else. It's twenty-four hours sand- 
wiched between two work-days. You finish your 
night-week at 7.00 Sunday morning, having just 
done a week of one twenty-four hour shift, and six 
fourteens. You've got all the time from then till the 
next morning! Hurrah! How will you use it? If you 
do the normal thing, eat breakfast, and go to bed 



EVERYDAY LIFE 55 

for eight hours, that brings you to 5.00 o'clock. 
Will you stay up all night? you've had your sleep. 
Yes, but there's a ten-hour turn coming at 7.00. 
You go to bed at 11.00, to sleep up for your turn. 
There's an evening-out of it! Hurrah again! But 
who in hell does the normal thing ? Either you go on a 
tear for twenty-four hours, you only have it twice 
a month, or you sleep the twenty-four, if the week 's 
been a bad one. Or and this is common in Bouton 
- you get sore at the system and stay away a week 
if you can afford it. 

"Hey, you, get me a jigger, quick. Ten thouV 
"All right," I said, and shut off my mind for the 
day. 

I usually had bad words and bad looks from 
"Shorty." Jack calls him "that dirty Wop." Late 
one afternoon he produced a knife and fingered it 
suggestively while he talked. So I always watched 
him with all the eyes I had. 

One day we had shoveled in manganese together 
over a hot ladle, and I noticed that he was in a bad 
mood. We finished and leaned against the rail. 

"Six days more," he said very quietly. 

I looked up, surprised at his voice. 

"What do you mean?" 

"Six days more, this week, me quit this goddam 
job." 

"What's the matter?" 

"Oh,- -me lose thirteen pound this job, what 
the hell!" 



56 STEEL 

"What job will you get now? " 

"I don't know, I don't know; any damn job better 
than this," he said very bitterly. 

Having adopted the quitting idea, these six days 
were too much to endure. A little later, Jock was 
ready to make front-wall. He saw Shorty and said, 
"Get me that hook and spoon." 

Shorty stood and looked at Jock, with the utmost 
malignity in his face, and said finally, "Get your god- 
dam hook and spoon yourself." 

Jock was greatly surprised, and returned, "Who the 
hell are you ? " 

Shorty snapped instantly, "Who the hell are you ? " 

And then he was fired. 

This is the second "quitting mad" I Ve seen. The 
feeling seems to be something like the irrepressible 
desire that gets piled up sometimes in the ranks of the 
army to "tell 'em to go to hell" and take the conse- 
quences. It's the result of accumulated poisons of 
overfatigue, long hours, overwrought nerves, "the 
military discipline of the mills." 

The practical advantage of being "given the hook" 
is that you can draw your pay immediately; whereas, 
if you simply leave, you have to wait for the end of the 
two weeks' period. 

I ate my dinner at the Greek's. 

"Make me some tea that's hot, George. This 
was n't. Oh, and a double bowl of shredded; I Ve got 
a hole to fill up." 

George kept the best of the four Greek restaurants. 
It had a certain variety. It splurged into potato salad, 



EVERYDAY LIFE 57 

and a few other kinds, and went into omelets that 
were very acceptable. The others confined themselves 
to fried things, with a few cereals and skimmed milk. 
I looked up from my shredded wheat. George was 
wiping up a rill of gravy and milk from the porcelain 
table, and a man was getting ready to sit down op- 
posite. It was Herb, the pit craneman. 

"Always feed here? " he asked. 

"Yes," I said, "best place in town, is n't it?" 

He nodded. 

"How big is Bouton? how many people has it?" I 
asked. 

He grinned slowly, and put his elbows on the table. 
He was a Pennsylvania Dutchman, with worry set- 
tling over good nature in a square face. 
'Twenty thousand," he said. 

"It seems small for twenty thousand," I returned; 
" like a little village. There 's really only one store, 
is n't there, the company store, where they keep 
anything? Only one empty newspaper, no theatre, 
unless you count that one-story movie place, no 
enterprise " 

"A one-man town," he said, quickly. "Nearly 
every house in town is owned by Mr. Burnham. Now 
look here, suppose a man works like hell to fix things 
up, to work around and get a pretty damn good 
garden, puts a lot of money into making his house 
right. Suppose he does, and then gets into a scrap 
with his boss. What can he do? The company owns 
his house, the company owns every other damn thing 
in town. He 's got to beat it *- all his work shot 



58 STEEL 

to hell. That's why nobody does anything. Hey, 
ham and Where you workin' now ? Ain't seen yer 
in the pit." 

"I 'm on the floor, helpin' on Number 7." 

"Att-a-boy!" 

At last, Saturday night. Everyone felt Sunday 
coming, with twenty-four hours of drunkenness or 
sleep alluringly ahead. The other shift had tapped the 
furnace at three o'clock. We might not tap again, and 
that was nice to think about. A front-wall and a hot 
back-wall we went through as if it were better fun 
than billiards. 

"Look out for me, I've got the de'il in me," from 
Jock, Scotch First on Number 8. I looked up, and the 
crazy fool had a spoon they weigh over a hundred 
between his legs, dragging it like a kid with a 
broomstick. As it bounced on the broken brick floor, 
he yelled like a man after a Hun. 

"Who's the maun amang ye, can lick a Scotch- 
man?" he cried, dropping the spoon to the floor. 

" Is this the best stuff you can show on Number 8 ? " 
said Fred slowly. He dived for Jock's waist, and drew 
it to him, though the Scotchman tried to break his 
grip with one of his hands and with the other thrust 
off his opponent's face. When Fred had him tight, he 
caught one of Jock's straying arms, bent it slowly be- 
hind his back, and contrived a hammerlock. 

;< You 're no gentlemen," in pain; "you 're inter- 
ruptin' my work." 

Fred relaxed, and Jock jumped away. 



EVERYDAY LIFE 59 

"Come over to a good furnace, goddam it, and 
fight it out! " he yelled, from a distance that protect- 
ed his words. 

The charging-machine, in its perpetual machine- 
tremolo, shook past and stopped. George slid down 
from his seat, and came over to Number 8's gang. 

"Well, Fred, how in hell's the world usin' yer?" 

"Ask me that to-morrow." 

"Well, guys, good night; I'm dead for forty 



minutes." 



He picked up a board some six feet long and about 
six inches in width. He laid himself carefully on it, 
and was sleeping inside of a minute. 

I looked at him enviously for a few minutes. Sud- 
denly it occurred to me that the board lay over a slit 
in the floor. It was the opening through which the 
pipes that attach to the gas-valve rise and fall. When 
gas is shifted from one end of the furnace to the other, 
the pipes emerge through the slit to a height several 
feet from the floor. Finally Fred made the same dis- 
covery, and a broad smile spread over his face. He 
continued to watch George, his grin deepening. At 
last he turned to the second-helper. 
'Throw her over," he said. 

Nick threw the switch. Slowly and easily the valve- 
pipes rose, lifting George and the head of his bed into 
the air, perilously. An immense and ill-controlled 
shout swelled up and got ready to burst inside the 
witnesses. George slept on, and the bed passed forty- 
five degrees. In another second it rolled off the side 
of the pipes, and George, scared, half-asleep, and much 



60 STEEL 

crumpled, rolled over on the furnace floor. It was 
several seconds before he recovered profanity. 

The pure joy of that event spread itself over the 
entire shift. 

When the light from the melting scrap-iron inside 
the furnace shot back, it lit up the hills and valleys in 
Nick's face. I noticed how sharp the slope was from 
his cheek-bones to the pit of his cheeks, and the round 
holes in which his eyes were a pool at the bottom. 
His lips moved off his white teeth, and twisted them- 
selves, as a man's do with effort. He looked as if he 
were smiling. I picked up my shovel, and shoved it 
into the dolomite pile, with a slight pressure of knee 
against right forearm that eases your back. The ther- 
mometer in the shade outside was 95. I wondered 
vaguely how much it was where Nick stood, with the 
doors open in his face. 

We walked back together after the front-wall to the 
trough of water. 

"Not bad when you get good furnace, good first- 
helper," he said. " Fred good boy, but furnace no good. 
A man got to watch himself on this job," he went on 
bitterly; "he pull himself to pieces." 

"I can't manage quite enough sleep," I said, 
wondering if that was the remark of a tenderfoot. 

" Sometime maybe one day a month I feel all 
right, good, no sleepy," he went on. "Daytime work, 
ten hour, all right, feel good; fourteen hour always too 
much tired. Sometime, goddam, I go home, I go to 
bed, throw myself down this way." He threw both 



EVERYDAY LIFE 61 

arms backward and to the side in a gesture of desper- 
ate exhaustion, allowing his head to fall back at the 
same time. "Goddam, think I no work no more. No 
day miff sleep for work," he concluded. 

Later on in the day, I saw Jimmy let the charge-up 
man, George, take the spoon and make front-wall. 
The heat "got his goat." "I lose about ten or fifteen 
pounds every summer," he said, "but I get it back in 
the winter. My wife is after me the whole time to 
leave this game. I tell her every year I will. Better 
quit this business, buddy, while you're young, before 
you get stuck like me." 

I walked home with Stanley, the Pole. He always 
called me Joe, the generic name for non-Hunky 
helpers. 

"Say, Joe," he said, as we came under the railroad 
bridge, "what's your name right?" 

"Charlie," I answered. "By the way, where have 
you been?" 

"Drunk, Charlie," he answered, smiling cheerfully. 

"Ever since I saw you in the pit?' 3 

'Three week," he stated, with satisfaction; "beer, 
whiskey, everyt'ing. What the hell, work all time 
goddam job, what the hell?" 



WORKING THE TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR SHIFT 

7 A. M. Sunday 

I TRIED to get a lot of sleep last night for handling 
the long turn; managed about nine hours. When I 
came to the locker, Stanley w#s there, dressed, clean- 
ing his smoked glasses. 

"How much sleep last night?" I asked. 

"Oh, six, seven hour," said Stanley. 

"You 're a damned fool," I said; "this is the long 



turn." 



"I know, I know," he returned, "I have t'ing to 
do. No have time sleep." 

I looked at him. He had a big frame, but his limbs 
were hung on it, like clothes on hooks. His face was a 
gray pallor, sharply caving in under the cheek-bones. 
His eyes were very dull, and steady. I 'd noticed 
those eyes of his before, and never could decide 
whether they showed a kind of sullen defiance, or res- 
ignation, or were just extraordinarily tired. 

"Two month more," he said. 

"Two month more what?" 

"Two month more this work every Sunday god- 
dam work all day like hell, all night like hell. Pretty 
soon go back to good job." 

I knew what he meant now. He had told me weeks 



THE TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR SHIFT 63 

before, when we had hewed cinders together in the pit, 
how he was a rougher in a Pittsburgh mill. Worked 
onlv twelve hours a day and no Sundays. 

"No more goddam long turn," he concluded; 
"work of rougher slack now, all right October." 

He moved off slowly, with no spring in his step, 
and no energy expended beyond what was absolutely 
necessary to move him. 

I walked out on the floor to look at the clock. The 
night gang on every furnace was washing up, very 
cheerfully and with an extraordinary thoroughness. 
They were slicking up for the once a fortnight twenty- 
four-hour party. Nearly everyone drank through his 
day off, or raised hell in some extraordinary manner. 
It was too precious and rare to spend in less violent 
reaction to the two weeks' fatigue. I looked at them 
and tried not to be envious. The first-helper on Seven 
was taking a last look through the peepholes as he put 
on his collar. A great Slavic hulk on Number 5 was 
brushing his clothes with unheard of violence. 

Dick Reber passed by. He saw me leaning against 
a girder buttoning my shirt. 

"Front-wall, Number 5, you!" he bawled. 

I was sore at myself for having been seen standing 
about doing nothing. But I was sore at Dick also, un- 
reasonably. I went back to my locker, got my gloves, 
and went to Number 5. I began filling the spoon, 
with the help of "Marty," the Wop. He glared at me, 
and interfered with my shovel twice when we went 
together to the dolomite pile. Marty had made ene- 
mies widely on the furnaces because of a loud mouth, 



64 STEEL 

and an officiousness that sat ridiculously on his stature 
and his ignorance of steel-making. 

I was glad when the front-wall was done. I took the 
hook down, and went over to the fountain in back of 
Five, cooled my head, neck, and arms, and went over 
to Seven, without taking a swallow. I had decided to 
have only two drinks of water in the half-day. 

Dick Reber saw me coming up and, I think in 
punishment for loafing, said: "Clean up under there. 
I want you to clean all that filth out, all of it, from 
behind that girder." 

It was near the locker and under the flooring, in a 
sort of shelf, where lime, dolomite, dirt, old gloves, 
shoes, filth of all sorts had accumulated. I cleaned it 
out with a broom and a stick. It took me half an 
hour. 

"All right," said the first-helper; "now get me ten 
thousand." 

So I went off to the Bessemer, rather glad of the 
walk. I climbed the stairs to the pouring platform, 
and watched the recorder, who had left his book, 
operate the levers. The shifting engine backed a 
ladle under, and slowly the huge pig-iron mixer, 
bubbling and shooting out a tide of sparks, dipped and 
allowed about 20,000 pounds to drop into the ladle. 

"Ten thou' for Seven," I said. 

In another five minutes, the engine brought up a 
ladle for my ten thousand, and the boy dipped it out 
for me with the miraculous levers. 

"All right," I said; and ran down the stairs fast 



THE TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR SHIFT 65 

enough to catch a ride back past the furnaces, on the 
step of the locomotive. 

The second-helper grabbed the big hook which 
came down slowly on a chain from the crane, and 
stuck it into the bottom of the ladle. As the chain 
lifted, the ladle tipped, and poured the ten thousand 
pounds with a hiss. But the craneman was careless, 
which is n't usual. Fred kept saying, "Whoop, 
whoop!" but he went right on spilling for quite a 
spell before he recovered control. 

"Dolomite," said the first-helper to me, after the 
"jigger" was poured. 

I went to a box full of the white gravel, at the end 
of the mill, and yelled at Herb, the craneman. A box 
of dolomite is about eight feet square and three high. 
This one was perched on top of a dolomite pile, ten 
feet off the ground. I struggled up on top, and took 
the hooks Herb gave me from the crane, eight-inch 
hooks, and put them into the corners of the box, 
using both hands. Then I slid down, and the box rose 
and swung over my head. 

Herb settled it neatly on our own little dolomite 
pile in front of Seven. I slipped out the front hooks, 
and the back ones lifted and dumped the load, with 
a soft swish, nearly on the low part of the old pile. 

There was a little time to sit down after this per- 
haps ten minutes. I smoked a Camel, which had 
spent the last shift in my shirt pocket. It was a mel- 
ancholy Camel, and tended to twist up in my nose, 
but it tasted sweet. I sat on Seven's bench, and 



66 STEEL 

watched Fred take his rod and move aside the shut- 
ters of the peepholes, to give final looks at the furnace. 
She must be nearly ready. He looked back at me, and 
I knew that meant "test." 

I grabbed tongs, lying spread out by the anvil, 
clamped hold of the mould, and ran with them to 
about ten feet from number two door of the furnace. 
Fred had the test-spoon lifted and shoved into the 
door; he moved it around in the molten steel, and 
brought it out full, straining his body tense to hold it 
level and not lose the test. I shifted the mould a little 
on the ground, and closed my hands as tight as I could 
on the tongs, so the mould would n't slip and turn. He 
poured easily and neatly, just filling the mould, and 
flung the spoon violently on the floor, to shake off the 
crusting steel on the handle. 

I ran with mould and tongs to the water-trough in 
front of Eight, and plunged it in, the steam coming 
up in a small cloud. I brought it out and held it on the 
anvil, end-wise, with the tongs, while Nick flattened 
in the top slightly on both edges, to make it break 
easily. Nick broke the ingot in two blows, and Fred 
and the melter consulted over the fragments. 

"All right," said Dick. 

We were about to tap. I went after my flat man- 
ganese shovel, but it was gone from the locker. Some 
dog-gone helper has nailed it. I took out an ordinary 
flat shovel. 

In back of the furnace Nick was already busy with 
a "picker," prodding away the stopping from the tap. 
He burned his hands once, swore, gave it up, went 



THE TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR SHIFT 67 

halfway along the platform away from the tap, re- 
turned, and went at it again. Finally, the steel es- 
caped, with its usual roar of flame and its usual 
splunch as it fell into the ladle. 

I stepped back, and nearly into " Shorty," who had 
come to help shovel manganese. "Where you get 
shovel?" he said, with his eyes blazing, pointing to 
mine. 

"Out of my locker," I said. 

He started toward it, and I held it away from him. 

"I tell you that goddam shovel mine " he began; 
but Dick, from the other side of the spout, shouted at 
us how many piles to shovel, and Shorty shut up. We 
were to get in the first big pile and the next little one. 

The ladle was beginning to fill. "Heow!" yelled 
Dick. 

Shorty and I went forward and put in the manga- 
nese. It was hot, but I took too much interest in 
shoveling faster than Shorty, to care. Then came the 
second ladle, during which Shorty's handkerchief 
caught on fire, and made him sputter a lot, and rid 
himself of some profanity in Anglo-Italian. 

I went to that trough by Eight afterward, to wash 
off the soot and cinder, and put my head under water, 
straight down. I knew back-wall was coming, and sat 
down a minute, wondering, rather vaguely, how I was 
going to feel at six or seven the next morning. 

Back-wall came. I had bad luck with it, trying too 
hard. It was too hot for one thing. There are times 
when a back-wall will be so cool you can hesitate a 
long second, as you fling your shovelful, and make 



68 STEEL 

sure of your aim; at others, your face scorches when 
you first swing back, and you let the stuff off any 
fashion, to get out of the heat. There's a third-helper 
on Five, I'm glad to say, who is worse than I. They 
put him out of the line this time; he was just throw- 
ing into the bottom of the furnace. 

Everyone develops an individual technique. Jim- 
my's is bending his knees, and getting his shovel so 
low that it looks like scooping off the floor. Fred's is 
graceful, with a smart snap at the end. 

Then front-wall. I start in search of a spoon and a 
hook. It's not easy to get one to suit the taste of my 
first-helper. There's one that looks twenty feet, I 
haven't any technical figures on spoons, --but it's 
too long, I know, for Fred. There 's a spoon three feet 
shorter, just right. Hell with two inches melted off 
the end! I pick a short one in good repair, he can 
use the thing or get his own, and drag it to Seven, 
giving the scoop a ride on the railroad track, to ease 
the weight. Fred has put a hook over number one door ; 
so I hurry, and lift the spoon handle with gloved hands 
to slip it on the hook. If it 's not done quickly, you '11 
get a burn; you 're an arm's length from molten steel, 
and no door between. I get it on, and pick up a shovel. 

Front-wall can be very easy, you can nearly en- 
joy it, like any of the jobs, if the furnace is cool, and 
there's a breeze blowing down the open spaces of the 
mill. And, too, if the spoon hangs right in the hook, 
and the first-helper turns it a little for you, then you 
can stand off, six feet from the flame, and toss your 
gravel straight into the spoon's scoop. You hardly go 



THE TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR SHIFT 69 

to the water fountain to cool your head when the 
stunt 's over. On number one the hook hung wrong, the 
spoon would n't turn in it, and you had to hug close, 
and pour, not toss. I tried a toss on my second shovel, 
and half of it skated on the floor. 

"Get it on the spoon, goddam you!" from Nick. 

So I did. 

After that, we sat around for twenty minutes. Fred 
looked at the furnace once or twice, and changed the 
gas. Several gathered in front of Seven Jock, Dick, 
the melter, Fred, and Nick. 

"Do you know what my next job 's going to be? " 
said Fred. 

The others looked up. 

"In a bank." 

"Nine to five," said Dick. "Huh! gentlemen's 
hours." 

"Saturday afternoons, and Sundays," said Fred. 

The other faces glowed and said nothing. 

"This would n't be so bad if there were Sundays," 
said Fred. 

"I '11 tell you, there'll come a time," broke in the 
melter, "when Gary and all the other big fellers will 
have to work it themselves no one else will." 

"Now in the old country, a man can have a bit of 
fun," said the Scotchman. "Picnics, a little singin' 
and drinkin', and the like. What can a man do 
here? We work eight hours in Scotland. They work 
eight hours in France, in Italy, in Germany all the 
steel mills work eight hours, except in this bloody free 
country." 



70 STEEL 

The melter broke in again. " It's the dollar they 're 
after the sucking dollar. They say they 're going to 
cut out the long turn. I heard they were going to cut 
out the long turn when I went to work in the mill, as a 
kid. I'm workin' it, ain't I? Christ!" 

I left, to shovel in fluor spar with Fred. 

When we finished, Fred said: "You better get your 
lunch now, if you want it. Then help Nick on the 
spout." 

I ate in the mill restaurant. My order was roast 
beef, which included mashed potato, peas, and a cup 
of coffee for thirty-five cents. Then I had apple 
pie and a glass of milk. The waiters are a fresh Jew, 
named Beck, and a short, fat Irish boy, called Pop. 
There is a counter, no tables; the food is clean. 

I went back to help Nick on the spout, and found 
him already back on the gallery with a wheelbarrow 
of mud. He looked up gloomily and said: "One 



more." 



I dumped the wheelbarrow, and went after more, 
bounced it over tracks and a hose, and up and down 
a little board runway to where the mud-box stands. 
After filling up, I went back slowly, dangerously, 
swayingly, over bits of dolomite and coal, navigated 
the corner of the gallery by a hair's tolerance, and 
dropped the handles of the wheelbarrow by Nick with 
relief. It's bad on my back, that 's it. I'd rather do 
two back-walls, and tap three times in high heat, than 
wheel these exacting loads of mud. 

Nick knelt on the other side of the spout, and I gave 



THE TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR SHIFT 71 

him the mud with my shovel, to repair the holes and 
broken places of the spout, which the last flow of 
molten steel had carried away. When he finished the 
big holes, I gave him small gobs of mud, dipping my 
hands in a bucket of water between each two, to keep 
the stuff from sticking. A wave of weakening heat 
rose constantly from the spout still hot from the last 
flow. I prayed God Nick would hurry. He made a 
smooth neat surface on the whole seven-feet of spout, 
rounding the edges with his hands. 

When I came back from the spout, Fred was in 
front of the furnace, blue glasses on his nose, inspect- 
ing the brew. He put his glasses back on his cap, 
glanced at me, and pointed to a pile of dolomite and 
slag which had been growing in front of Number 3 
door. 

" All right," I said, and picked up a shovel from the 
dolomite pile. For a couple of minutes, I shoveled the 
stuff down the slag hole, and remembered vividly the 
bygone pit-days. Then I would have been cleaning up 
around the buggy. For a minute I felt vastly superior 
to pit people. I earned two cents more an hour, and 
threw down a hole the dolomite and dirt they cleared 
away. 

I began to feel a little tired in back and legs, and 
repeated Fred's formula on how to get away with a 
long turn: "Take it like any other day to five o'clock. 
Then work for midnight. Anyone can stand it from 
midnight to morning." I did a front-wall on that basis. 

"Watch those buggies!" 

I ran over to the furnace and glanced down the slag 



72 STEEL 

hole, yelling back, "Half full." Then Fred went to an 
electric switch, and the whole furnace tilted till the 
hot running slag flowed over at the doors, and dripped 
into the buggy-car beneath, in the pit. I held my 
hand up as one of them filled, and Fred caught the 
pitching furnace with the switch, and stopped the 
flow of slag. 

4 P. M. Sunday 

Number 8 furnace tapped, and I shoveled manga- 
nese into the ladle with that man from Akron, who is 
new, and who, I noticed, burned his fingers in the same 
way I did on my first day. Then back-wall and front- 
wall, and Jock saying all the while, "It 's a third gone, 
lads." 

5 P. M. Sunday 
I felt much more tired after this first ten hours than 

later; it was the limp fatigue that comes from too 
much heat. I ate fried eggs and a glass of milk, and 
then my appetite took a start and I ordered cold 
lamb and vegetables. When I finished, I went back 
into the mill to my locker, and took out a cigarette. 
I sat on a pile of pipes against a main girder, intend- 
ing to smoke; the cigarette went out, and I slept a 
half hour. 

Things were going first-rate from six to nine. Jig- 
ger, clean up scrap, front-wall Number 6, front-wall 
Number 8. I could n't distinguish between this and 
any other night shift; the food must have acted for 
sleep. But after nine the hours dragged. From 9.20 to 
10.00 was a couple of hours. 



THE TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR SHIFT 73 

In the middle of a front-wall, I saw the efficien- 
cy man, Mr. Lever, come through and stare at the 
furnace, walk around a little, and stare profound- 
ly at the furnace. Mr. Lever was pointed in two 
places, I noticed for the first time. He had a pointed 
stomach, and his face worked into a point at his nose. 
I noticed carefully that he had a receding chin and a 
receding forehead. As he watched us scoop the dolo- 
mite, drag up to the spoon, dump, scoop up the dolo- 
mite, and do it over, for three quarters of an hour, I 
thought about him. I wanted to go up to him, and 
give him my shovel. I had to struggle against that 
impulse to go up to him and give him my shovel. 

The evening dragged. I fought myself, to keep from 
looking at the clock. I fought for several hours after 
ten o'clock, and then, when I thought dawn must be 
breaking, went up and found it ten minutes of eleven. 

I did feel relieved at twelve, and went out to the 
restaurant, saying: "Hell, anyone can wait till morn- 
ing." 

Sometimes, when things are hurried, when tapping 
is near or a spout is to be fixed, you have to eat still 
drenched in sweat. But to-night I had time, and at 
quarter of twelve hung my shirt on the hot bricks at 
the side of the furnace, and stood near the doors in the 
heat, to dry my back and legs. I then washed soot 
and dolomite dust from ears and neck, and dipped my 
left arm, which was burned, in cold water. At twelve 
I put on the dried shirt, and went to eat. 

Half the men wash, half don't. There were a 
number of open-hearth helpers in the restaurant, 



74 STEEL 

with black hands and faces, two eating soup, two with 
their arms on the counter. Their faces lacked any ex- 
pression beyond a sullen fatigue; but their eyes roved, 
following Beck about. Lefflin had his arms on the 
counter and his face on them. 

I ate ham and eggs, which included coffee, fried 
potatoes, two slices of bread, and a glass of milk. 

Walking back to the furnaces was an effort of will. 
I climbed the embankment to the tracks very slowly, 
the stones and gravel loosening and tumbling down- 
hill at each step. I tried hard to concentrate on a 
calculation of the probable number of front-walls to 
come. Then I wondered if it would n't pay to cut out 
breakfast in the morning, and get nine hours of sleep 
instead of eight and a quarter. Friselli came up the 
bank behind me. He is third on Number 6. 

"Well," I said, "make lots of money to-night." 

"What's the good money, kill yourself?" he said, 
and went past me along the tracks. 

Number 8 was preparing to make front-wall. I felt 
weary, and full of ham and eggs, and very desirous of 
sitting down right there on the floor. But Jock, the 
first-helper on Eight, said, "Oh, Walker!" when he 
saw me, and we began. 

Through that front-wall Jock was tiring. He worked 
in little spurts. For "half a door" he would sing, and 
goad us on in half-Scotch, and for the next half he 
would be silent, and wipe his face with his sleeve. 
After that door, he came up to us and said with pro- 
found conviction, "It 's a lang turn, it 's a lang turn." 



THE TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR SHIFT 75 

When we finished, Jock lay down on a bench. 

It 's a part of a third-helper's duties to keep five or 
six bags of fine anthracite coal on the little gallery 
back of the furnace, near the 'spout. I went after that 
little job now. Fifty pounds of coal in a thick paper 
bag is n't much to carry, till you get doing it a couple 
of days running. 

I sat on the seat where the Wop stays who works 
the furnace-doors; they call him the "pull up." That 
had some sacks and a cushion, and was broad, with 
a girder for back. I fell asleep. 

Something twisting and pinching my foot woke 
me up. It was the first-helper. "Fifteen thousand, 
quick!" he said. I got up with a jerk, feeling not 
so sleepy as I expected, but immeasurably stiff. I 
moved in a wobbly fashion down toward the Besse- 
mer. I felt as if I were limping in four or five direc- 
tions. Very vigorously and insistently I thought of one 
thing. I would look at the clock opposite Number 6 
when I went by, and possibly, very probably, a whole 
pile of hours had been knocked off. Then I thought 
with a sting that we had not tapped, and it could n't 
be more than three o'clock. It was two! 

"Fifteen thousand," I said to myself, "quick"; 
and climbed the iron stairs to the Bessemer platform. 

When I came back, I walked beside the locomotive 
as it dragged the ladle and the fifteen thousand 
pounds of molten pig iron. Through closing eyes 
I watched the charging-machine thrust in the 
spout. That long finger lifted the clay thing from its 



76 STEEL 

resting-place on the big saw-horses between furnaces. 
Then, moving on the rails, the machine adjusted it- 
self in front of number two door, and shoved the spout 
in with a jar. 

I stood lazily watching the pouring of the molten 
steel. Fred motioned slowly with his hands, with 
"Up a little, whoop!" as the stream flowed very 
cleanly into the spout and furnace. Then came the 
noise of lifting, that characteristic crane grind, with a 
rising inflection as it gained speed and moved off. 
"Pretty soon tapping, after tapping back-wall, front- 
wall, the spout, morning," I meditated. 

"Well, how in hell are you ? " It was Al, the pit boss. 

"Fine! " I said as loudly as I could; and went and 
sat down at once. My chin hit my chest. I stopped 
thinking, but did n't go to sleep. 

"Test!" yelled Fred. 

We tested three times, and then tapped. There were 
two ladles, with four piles of manganese, to shovel 
in. A third-helper from Number 4, a short stocky 
Italian, shoveled with me. The ladle swung slightly 
closer to the gallery than usual, and sent up a bit 
more gas and sparks. We put out little fires on our 
clothes six or seven times. After the first ladle, the 
Italian put back the sheet iron over the red-hot spout, 
and after the second ladle, I put it on. We rested be- 
tween ladles, in a little breeze that came through be- 
tween furnaces. 

"What you think of this job? " he asked. 

"Pretty bad," I said, "but pretty good money." 

He looked up, and the veins swelled on his forehead. 



THE TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR SHIFT 77 

His cheeks were inflamed, and his eyes showed the 
effects of the twenty hours of continuous labor. 

"To hell with the money! " he said, with quiet pas- 
sion; "no can live." 

The words sank into my memory for all time. 

The back-wall was, I think, no hotter than usual, 
but men's nerves made them mind things they would 
have smirked at the previous morning. The third- 
helper on Eight and Nick quarreled over a shovel, and 
Nick sulked till Fred went over and spoke to him. 
Once the third-helper got in Nick's way. "Get out, or 
I'll break your goddam neck! " And so on 

I felt outrageously sore at everyone present not 
least, myself. After that back-wall all except Fred 
threw their shovels with violence on the floor, and 
went to the edge of the mill. They stood about 
in the little breeze that had come up there, in a state 
of fatigue and jangled nerves, looking out on a pale 
streak of morning just visible over freight cars and 
piles of scrap. 

We made front-wall, and when it was over, I went 
to the bench by the locker and sat down, to try to for- 
get about the spout. I had been forgetting about it 
for twenty minutes when Nick came up, and shook 
me, thinking I had fallen asleep. 

"Mud," he said. 

I got him mud. 

Nick fixed up the spout amid an inclination to 
cursing in Serbian, and gave me commands in loud 
tones in the same language. I felt exceedingly in- 
different to Nick and to the spout, and finished up in 



78 STEEL 

a state of enormous indifference to all things save the 
chance of sleep. Jack, the second-helper of Eight, was 
making tea, having dipped out some hot steel with a 
test-spoon, and set a tea-pot on it. 

"Want some?" he said. 

I nodded. 

Watching him make it, and drinking the tea woke 
me up. 

"What time is it?" I asked. 

"Four-thirty," said he. 

"Thanks for the tea." 

Then the summoning signal for a third-helper rang 
out a sledge-hammer pounding on sheet iron. They 
were "spooning up," that is, making' front-wall, on 
Number 6. All through that stunt I was wide awake, 
quite refreshed, though with the sense, the conviction, 
that I had been in the mill, doing this sort of thing, 
for a week at the inside. 

Coming back to Seven from that, I found Fred flat 
on his back, looking "all in." Jock came up for a 
drink of water, and looked over at me. 

"You look to me," he remarked, "like the breaking 
up of a bad winter." He laughed. 

5 A. M. Monday 

The sun came into the mill, looking very pallid and 
sick beside the bright light from the metal. I watched 
the men on Eight make back-wall, and heard the 
sounds; I sat on the bench, my legs as loose as I 
could make them, my head forward, eyes just raised. 
"Lower, lower, goddam you, lower!" came a des- 



THE TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR SHIFT 79 

perate command to the "pull-up" man to close the 
furnace doors. 

" Get out " 

" One more " 

"Up, up, goddam it! where are your ears?" 

"Come on, men, last door." 

"My shovel you son-of-a ! " 

Now they were tapping on Number 6. The melter 
came out of his shanty; he had had a sleep since the 
last furnace tapped. He rubbed his eyes, and went 
out on the gallery. I could hear his "Heow." Four 
poor devils were standing in the flame, putting in 
manganese. Thank God, I don't shovel for Six. 

"A jigger," from Fred. 

"Sure." 

When I went for it, the sores on the bottom of my 
feet hurt, so that I walked on the edges of my shoes. 
I was so delighted with the idea of its being six o'clock, 
with no back-walls ahead, that I almost took pleasure 
in that foot. I stopped in front of a fountain and put 
my right arm under the water. 

The recorder in the Bessemer was asleep. He was a 
boy of twenty. I woke him up, and grinned in his face. 

"Fifteen thou' for Number 7." 

'You go to hell, with your goddam Number 7! " 

I grinned at him again, knew it was just the long 
turn, knew he'd give me that fifteen thousand pounds; 
went down stairs again 

Twenty minutes of seven. It 's light. Nobody 
talks, but everyone dresses in a hurry. Everyone's 



8o STEEL 

face looks grave from fatigue eyes dead. We leave 

at ten minutes of seven. 

/ 

7 A. M. Monday 

It's a problem a damn problem whether to 
walk fast and get home quick, or walk slow and sort of 
rest. I try to go fast, and have the sense of lifting my 
legs, not with the muscles, but with something else. 
I shake my head to get it clearer. One bowl of oat- 
meal. Coffee. "I feel all right." I get up and am 
conscious of walking home quietly and evenly, with- 
out any further worry about the difficulty of lifting 
my feet. "The long turns, they 're not so bad," I say 
out loud, and stumble the same second on the stairs. 
I get up, angry, and with my feet stinging with pain. 
Old thought comes back: "Only seven to eight hours 
sleep. Bed. Quick." I push into my room -- the sun 
is all over my bed. Pull the curtain; shut out a little. 
Take off my shoes. It 's hard work trying to be care- 
ful about it, and it 's darn painful when I'm not care- 
ful. Sit on the bed, lift up my feet. Feel burning all 
over; wonder if I'll ever sleep. Sleep. 



VI 
BLAST-FURNACE APPRENTICESHIP 

AT the end of every shift, when I walked toward the 
green mill-gate just past the edge of the power house, 
I could look over toward the blast-furnaces. There 
were five of them, standing up like mammoth cigars 
some hundred feet in height. A maze of pipes, large 
as tunnels, twisted about them, and passed into great 
boilers, three or four of which arose between each two 
furnaces. These, I learned, were " stoves " for heating 
the blast. I had had in mind for several days asking 
for a transfer to this interesting apparatus. There was 
less lifting of dead weight on the blast-furnace jobs 
than on the open-hearth. Besides, I wanted to see the 
beginning of the making of steel the first trans- 
formation the ore catches, on its way toward becom- 
ing a steel rail, or a surgical instrument. 

I went to see the blast-furnace superintendent, Mr. 
Beck, at his house on Superintendent's Hill. 

"I'm working on the open-hearth," I said, "and 
want very much to get transferred to the blast-fur- 
nace. I intend to learn the steel business, and want 
to see the beginnings of things." 

"How much education?" he asked. 

"I graduated from college," I said, "Yale College." 
Would that complicate the thing, I wondered, or 



82 STEEL 

get in the way? I wanted badly to sit down for a talk, 
tell him the whole story army, Washington, hopes 
and fears; I liked him a good deal. But he was in a 
hurry perhaps that might come on a later day. 

We talked a little. He said I ought to come into the 
office for a while and " learn to figure burdens." I 
replied that I wanted the experience of the outside, 
and a start at the bottom. 

"All right," he said, "I'll put you outside. Come 
Monday morning." 

On Monday morning I followed the cindered road 
inside the gate for three hundred yards, turned off 
across a railroad track, and passed a machine-shop. 
The concrete bases of the blast-furnaces rose before 
me. Somebody had just turned a wheel on the side of 
one of the boiler-like "stoves," and a deafening blare, 
like tons of steam getting away, broke on my ear- 
drums. I asked where the office was. 

"Through there." 

Up some steps, over a concrete platform, past the 
blaring "stove," I went, to the other side of the 
furnaces, and found there a flat dirty building the 
office. Inside was Mr. Beck, who turned me over at 
once to Adolph, the "stove-gang boss." 

I was a little anxious over this introduction to 
things, and thought it might embarrass or prevent 
comradeships. But it did n't. No one knew, or if he 
did, ever gave it a thought. It may perhaps have ac- 
counted for Adolph's letting me keep my clothes in 
his shanty that night, and for considerable conver- 



BLAST-FURNACE APPRENTICESHIP 83 

sation he vouchsafed me on the first day. But my in- 
dividuality passed quickly, very quickly; I became no 
more than a part of that rather dingy unit, the stove- 
gang. 

While I was putting on my clothes in Adolph's 
sheet-iron shanty, he grinned and said: "Last time, 
pretty dirty job, too, eh? " 

"Yes," I said, "open-hearth." 

He led me out of the shanty, past three stoves, up 
an iron staircase, past a blast-furnace, and through a 
"cast-house." That is not as interesting as I hoped. 
It is merely a place of many ditches, or run-ways, that 
lead the molten iron from the furnace to the ladle. 
Very little iron is ever "cast," since the blast-furnaces 
here make iron only for the sake of swiftly transport- 
ing it, while still hot, to the Bessemer and open-hearth, 
for further metamorphosis into steel. 

We came at last to more stoves, a set of three for 
No. 4 blast-furnace. Near the middle one was a little 
group of seven men, three of them with a bar, which 
they thrust and withdrew constantly in an open door 
of the stove. Inside were shelving masses and gobs 
of glowing cinder. 

"You work with these feller," Adolph said; and 
passed out of sight along the stoves. 

I watched carefully for a long time, which was a 
cardinal rule of practice with me on joining up with a 
new gang. It was best, I thought, to shut up, and 
study for a spell the characters of the men, the move- 
ments and knacks of the job. I think this reserve 



84 STEEL 

helped, for the men were first to make advances, and 
before the day was out, I had a life-history from most 
of them. 

"Where you work, las' job? " asked a little Italian 
with a thin blond moustache, after he had finished his 
turn on the crowbar. 

"Open-hearth," I said, "third-helper." 

"I work three week open-hearth," he said, "too 
hot, no good." 

"Hot all right," I said; "how 's this job? " 

"Oh, pretty good, this not'ing," he said; "sometime 
we go in stove, clean 'em up, hot in there like hell. 
Some day all right, some day no good." 

I had been watching the stove, and caught the 
simple order of movements. Two or three men, with 
long lunging thrusts, loosened the glowing cinder in- 
side a fire-box; another pulled it out with a hoe into a 
steel wheelbarrow; another dumped the load on a 
growing pile of cinder over the edge of the platform. 
When one of the men disappeared for a chew, I 
grabbed the wheelbarrow at hauling-out time, and 
worked into the job. 

In fifteen minutes that fire-box was cleared out, and 
we moved to the next stove. We skipped that; the 
door was locked and wedged. I learned later that, if 
we had opened it, the blast (being "on" in the stove) 
would in all likelihood have killed us. It blows out 
with sufficient pressure to carry a man forty yards. 
But the next stove we tackled. I tried the thrusting 
of the bar this time. The trick is to aim well at a likely 
crack, thrust in hard and together, and with all the 



BLAST-FURNACE APPRENTICESHIP 85 

weight on the bar, spring it up and down till the 
cinder gives. It was good exercise without strain, and 
so cool in comparison with open-hearth work that I 
took real joy in the hot cinder. The heat was compar- 
able to a wood fire, and only occasionally was it neces- 
sary to hug close. 

We did five stoves, taking the wheelbarrow with us, 
and carrying it up the steps, when we passed from one 
level to another. After the five came a lull. Two of 
the men rolled cigarettes, the rest reinforced a chew 
that already looked as big as an apple in the cheek. 
For both these comforting acts "Honest Scrap" was 
used, a tobacco that is stringy and dark, and is car- 
ried in great bulk, in a paper package. 

The men sat on steps or leaned against girders. A 
short Italian near me, with quick movements, and full 
of unending talk, looked up and asked the familiar 
question, "What job you work at last time?" 

"Open-hearth," I said. 

"How much pay? " 

"Forty-five cents an hour." 

"No like job?" 

"No, like this job better," I returned. 

He paused. Then, "What job you work at before 
open-hearth? " 

"Oh," I said, "I was in the army." 

His face became alert at once, and interested. The 
others stopped talking, also, and looked over at me. 

"Me have broder in de American army; no in army, 
myseP; me one time Italian army. How long time 
you?" 



86 STEEL 

"Nearly two years," I said. 

"Oversea?" 

"Yes, but did n't get to front, before war over. No 
fight," I answered, adopting the abbreviated style, as 
I sometimes did. It seemed unnecessary and a little 
discourteous to use a rounded phrase, with all the 
adorning English particles. 

He jumped down from the steps and took up a 
broom, executing a shoulder arms or two, and the flat- 
hand Italian salute, performed with a tremendous air. 

"Here," I said, "bayonet." 

I took the broomstick, and did the bayonet exer- 
cises. The gang stood up and watched with delight, 
making comments in several languages. Especially 
the eyes of the Italians danced. The incident left a 
genial social atmosphere. 

Adolph came in from behind one of the stoves as I 
was concluding a "long point." 

"Come on," he said, looking at me with a grin; and 
when I had followed him, "I show you furnace, li'l 
bit." 

He took me to a stair-ladder near the skip that as- 
cended to the top of Number 5. For every furnace, a 
skip carries up the ore and other ingredients for melt- 
ing inside. It is a funicular-like thing, a continuous 
belt, with boxes attached, running from the "hopper" 
at the top of the furnace to the "stockroom" under- 
ground. 

We started to climb the steps at the left of the belt. 
There was a little rail between us and the moving 
boxes of ore. 



BLAST-FURNACE APPRENTICESHIP 87 

"See dat," said Adolph, pointing through at the 
boxes. "Keep head inside," he said, "keep hand in- 
side, cut 'em off quick." He illustrated the amputa- 
tion, with great vivacity, on his throat and wrists. 

It was a climb of five minutes to the furnace-top. 
We paused to look at the mounting boxes. 

"Ore? "I asked. 

He nodded. 

Pretty soon the iron ceased coming, and a white 
stone took its place in the boxes. 

"What's that?" 

"Limestone," he said. "Next come coke. Look." 

We were near enough to the top to see the boxes 
tilt, and the hopper open and swallow the dumping of 
stone. In a minute or two, we stepped out on the plat- 
form on top of the furnace. 

Adolph looked at me and grinned. "You smell dat 
gas?" he asked. 

I nodded. He referred to the carbon monoxide that 
I knew issued from the top of all blast-furnaces. 

"You stay li'l bit, pretty soon you drunk," he said. 

"Let's not," I returned. 

:< You stay li'l bit more," he continued, his grin 
broadening, "pretty soon you dead." 

I learned in later days that this was perfectly ac- 
curate. 

We stood on a little round platform fifteen or 
twenty feet across, with the hopper in the centre gob- 
bling iron ore and limestone. A layer of ore dust, an 
inch thick, covered the flooring, and a faint odor of 
gas was in the air. Each of the other five furnaces had 



88 STEEL 

a similar lookout, and a narrow passageway connect- 
ed them with the tops of the stoves. The top of these 
gigantic shafts likewise had a diameter of some fifteen 
feet; there were little railings about them, and in the 
centre a trapdoor. 

"What's that for? "I asked. 

"Go inside to clean 'em out," he returned. 

I wondered, with a few flights of imagination, what 
that job would be like, and remembered that the 
Italian with the blond moustache had spoken of the 
duty in uncomplimentary terms. 

We could look forth from this eminence and see the 
whole mill yard, which was nearly a mile in extent. 
Over the "gas house" a large building I hadn't 
noticed before, the source of gas for the open-hearth 
and far to the left, were the Bessemers, spouting 
red gold against a very blue sky. On their right rose 
the familiar stacks of the open-hearth. I looked in- 
tently at them and wondered what Number 7 did at 
that moment front-wall, back-wall, or tapping its 
periodic deluge of hot steel? 

In the foreground, a variety of gables, and then the 
irregular roof, far beyond, that I knew must be the 
blooming-mill, because of the interesting yard with the 
muscular cranes, tossing about bars and shapes and 
sheets of steel. An immense system of railways every- 
where, running down as far as the river bank, where 
were piles of cinder, and a trainload of ladles moving 
there to dump. A half-mile away another ironclad 
cluster of buildings, the tube mill, the nail mill, and 
the rest, with convenient rails running up to them. 



BLAST-FURNACE APPRENTICESHIP 89 

I turned around. Near by, slightly beyond the foot 
of the skips, was that impressive hill of red dust, the 
ore pile. Iron ore was being taken away for the skips 
with one of those spider-like mechanisms that com- 
bine crane, derrick, and steam-shovel. It was built 
hugely, two uprights forty or fifty feet high, at a 
distance, I estimate, of a hundred yards, with their 
bases secured to railway cars. A crossbeam joined 
them, which was itself a monorail, along which a 
man-carrying car ran. From that car dropped chains, 
attaching themselves at the bottom to the familiar 
automatic shovel or scoop. 

First the whole arrangement moved the up- 
rights, the crosspiece, and the monorail car very 
slowly over the whole hill of ore, to a good spot for 
digging. Then the monorail car sped to the chosen 
position, and the shovel fell rapidly into the ore. 
With a mouthful secure, the chains lifted a little, 
enough to clear the remaining ore, and the car ran 
its mouthful to the hill's edge, to dump into special 
gondolas on railroad tracks. The whole gigantic ore- 
hill was within easy reach of a single instrument. 

"Ought to last a while," I said. 

"Will be gone in a month," he returned. 

We went down the ladder-steps, and stopped near 
one of the furnaces. I rather hoped the stove-gang 
boss would talk. He did. 

"Ever work blast-furnace before?" he began. 

"No," I said; "I have worked on the open-hearth 
furnaces a little. But before that I spent about two 
years in the army." 



90 STEEL 

"Me in Austrian army," he said musingly, "fifteen 
year ago. Sergeant artillery." 

I thought about that, and it occurred to me that he 
retained something of the artillery sergeant still, neces- 
sarily adapted a little to the exigencies of American 
blast-stoves. I found he knew about ordnance, and 
boasted of Budapest cannon-makers. 

"How do you like this country? " I asked. 

"America, all right," he said. 

"Good country?" I pushed him a little. 

"Mak' money America," he explained; "no good 
live. Old country fine place live." 

We developed that a little. We discussed cities. 
He asked me about London and Paris, and other 
European cities. Which did I like best, cities over 
there or American cities? I said American cities. He 
asked what was the difference. I thought a minute, 
comparing New York and London. European cities 
did not have the impressive forty-story edifices of 
American, and looked puny with four or five. 

"Ah," he said, "tall buildings no look good. Buda- 
pest good city, no can build over five story." 

Here was unlooked-for discrimination. I began feel- 
ing provincial. He went on to describe the cleanliness 
of Budapest, and to contrast it with Pennsylvania 
cities of his acquaintance. He certainly had me hands 
down. 

He continued: "No can build stack that t'row 
smoke into neighbor's house. Look at dis place," 
he said, pointing to Bouton, "look at Pittsburgh." 

I said no more, but nodded swift agreement. 



BLAST-FURNACE APPRENTICESHIP 91 

He was a little more encouraging about the United 
States when it came to government. 

"You have a man president; that no good, after 
four year you kick him out. My country sometime 
get king, that 's all right, sometime get damn bad one. 
No can kick him out." 

But he relapsed into censure again when he came to 
American women. "Women," he said, "in my 
country do more work than men this country." 

' They have more time, here," I said, "and don't 
have to work so hard." 

"American women, when you meet 'em, always 
ask: 'How much money in de pock? ' What they do? 
Dress up, hat, dress, shoe, walk all time Main 
Street. Bah!" 

It was a refreshing shock to receive this outspoken 
critique of America from a Hunky, a Hungarian 
stove-gang boss of a blast-furnace. I was amused very 
much by it, except the phrase "America all right 
mak' money, old country place live." I coupled it up 
with some talks I had had with men on the open- 
hearth. America, steel-America, which was all they 
knew, was very largely a place of long hours, gas, heat, 
Sunday work, dirty homes, big pay. There was a con- 
nection in that, I thought, with the gigantic turnover 
figures of laborers in steel, the restless moving from 
job to job that had been growing in recent years so 
fast. Too many men were treating America as a good 
place for taking a fortune out of. The impulse toward 
learning English, building a home, and becoming 
American, certainly was n't strong in steel- America. 



92 STEEL 

But I left these questions in the back of my head, and 
returned to the stove gang at Adolph's command. 

In a few days I was well in the midst of my gang- 
novitiate. We got formally introduced by name one 
day in front of No. 12 stove. The little Italian with 
the black moustache said : " What 's your name ? " 

"Charlie," I said, knowing that first names were 
the thing. 

"All right," he said, "that's Jimmy, Tony, Joe. 
Mike not here. You know Mike? Slavish. John, 
that's me. That's John too wid de bar. Hey! " 
with an arresting yell, that made the others look up, 
" Dis is Charlie! " 



r 



I became a part of an exclusive group of seven men, 
who had worked together for about two years. There 
is a cohesiveness and a structure of tradition about 
a semipermanent mill-group of this sort that marks 
it off from the casual-labor gang. The physical sur- 
roundings remain unaltered, and methods and ways 
of thought grow up upon them. I was struck by the 
amount of character a man laid bare in twelve hours 
of common labor. There are habits of temper, of cun- 
ning and strength, of generosity and comradeship, of 
indifference, that it is capable of throwing into relief 
beyond any a priori reasoning. It begins by being ex- 
tensively intimate in personal and physical ways; you 
know every man's idiosyncrasies in handling a sledge 
or a bar or a shovel, and the expression of his face 
under all phases of a week's work; you know naturally 
the various garments he wears on all parts of his body. 



BLAST-FURNACE APPRENTICESHIP 93 

You proceed to acquaint yourself, as the work throws 
up opportunity, with the mannerisms and qualities of 
his spirit. It is astonishing, with the barrier of a 
different language, only partly broken down by a 
dialect-American, how little is ultimately concealed 
or kept out of the common understanding. _*~- 

I was impressed by the precise practices established 
in doing the work. Every motion and every interval 
of the job had been selected by long trial. If you 
did n't think the formula best, try it out. Many con- 
siderations went into its selection to-day's fatigue, 
to-morrow's, and next' month's. It had an eye for gas 
effect, for the boss's peculiar character, and for all 
material obstacles, many of which were far from 
obvious. 

When the flue dust had been removed from the 
blast-stoves, I found wheeling and dumping it an easy 
and congenial set of movements, and consequently 
took off my loads at a great speed. 

At once I became a target. "Tak' it eas' What 's 
the matter with you; tak' it eas'." 

John Slovene, and Stoic put in an explana- 
tion: "Me work on this job two year, me know; take 
it easy. You have plenty work to do." 

'Take it easy," I said, "and no get tired, eh? feel 
good every day? " 

: 'You no can feel good every day," he amended 
quickly. "Gas bad, make your stomach bad." 

So I slowed up on my wheelbarrow loads, sat on the 
handles, and spat and talked, till I found I was going 
too slow. There was a work-rhythm that was neither 



94 STEEL 

a dawdle nor a drive; if you expected any comfort in 
your gang life of twelve hours daily, you had best dis- 
cover and obey its laws. It might be, from several 
points of view, an incorrect rhythm, but, at all events, 
it was a part of the gang mores. And some of its in- 
ward reasonableness often appeared before the day 
i was out, or the month, or the year. 



Everybody wore good clothes to work, and changed 
in the shanty to their furnace outfit. I usually came 
in a brown suit, which had been out in the rain a good 
many times and was fairly shapeless. One day I 
entered the mill in a gray suit, which fitted and was 
moderately pressed. 

At the dinner-bucket hour in the shanty, I was 
asked by John the Italian: "How much you pay for 
suit, Charlie?" 

I was embarrassed, fearing vaguely explanations 
that might have to follow a declaration of price. I 
suddenly recalled the fact that the suit had been 
given me by my brother, so that I did n't know the 
price, and said so. 

"My brother give me suit, I don't know how much 
he pay," I said. That dumped me into another 
quandary. 

"What job your brother have? " I was immediately 
asked. 

I thought a moment and answered truthfully again. 

"My brother, priest," I said. 

That arrested immediate attention, and I was 
looked at with respect and curiosity. 



BLAST-FURNACE APPRENTICESHIP 95 

Tony finally said, " Why you no be priest, Charlie ? " 

"Oh," I answered, laughing, "I run away; I like 
raise hell too much be priest." This was pretty ac- 
curate, too. 

"O Charlie!" they bellowed. 

After that, the gang were friends to the death. 



VII 
DUST, HEAT, AND COMRADESHIP 

ONE day I was promoted to stove-tender or hot- 
blast man on Number 6. 

The keeper of the furnace was a negro. When he 
was rebuilding the runways for the tapped metal, I 
noticed that his movements were sure and practised. 
He patted and shaped the mud-clay in the runway, 
like a potter moulding a vessel. When it was tap time, 
he bored the tap hole with the electric drill easily and 
neatly; when the metal flowed, he knew the exact 
moment to lift the gates for drawing away slag. I 
watched him to see how he managed the four white 
men that worked for him. They were Austrians, and 
I found they joked together and showed no resent- 
ment of status. Commands were given with a nod or 
gesture. With the Americans on the furnace, the re- 
lation was the traditional one. The negro was light 
and seemed too slightly built for the job, but he per- 
formed it very efficiently, and so did his gang. 

The blower was Old McLanahan, a man somewhere 
between thirty-five and sixty. A long, successful life 
of inebriety had given him a certain resignation to 
the ills of man, and enabled him to keep the heart of a 
viveur throughout his life. His skin appeared thrown 
like a bag over an assemblage of loosely fitted bones 



DUST, HEAT, AND COMRADESHIP 97 

- the only considerable part of him being a paunch 
which coursed forward into a moderate point. 

He was rather proud of being a blower on furnace 
No. 6. 

After the slag had been sampled he said: " Where 
d'ye eat, boy?" 

"I eat at Mrs. Parrell's." 

"How much?" 

"Seven a week." 

"Too much. Pretty goddam good is it?" 

"Damn good food," I said. 

"Is Mrs. Farrell a widder woman?" 

"No," I said, "she 'snot." 

"Well," he said, "if you hear of a damn fine little 
widder woman, let me know will yer? " 

"Sure," I said. 

"I'm lookin' for a place ter board, and most of all 
I'm lookin' for a little widder woman ter honor wi4 
holy matrimony." 

After tapping that morning at 8.00, McLanahan 
took a silver dollar out of his pocket. "If it comes 
heads," he said, "I'm goin' out to-night, see, I'm 
goin' out ter find a woman." 

He flipped the coin and it fell tails. "Don't count," 
said he, "two out of three." 

This flip fell heads. 

"Hah," he said, "if this comes heads, I'm goin' 
out to-night ter find a woman." 

It fell tails. 

"Hell! " he said, "Don't count, flipped it with the 
wrong hand." 



98 STEEL 

He kept this up all day. Finally at 5.30 the coin 
came heads. He picked the coin up and put it in his 
pocket. 

"Coin' out, to-night," he said. 

"Boss wants to keep Number 6 lookin* right. Go 
down below, and clean out all that flue dust." 

I shoveled between the stone arches of the furnace 
base, that curved overhead like the culverts of a 
bridge. Sometimes the flue dust was wet and clotted 
with mud, and came up in cakes on the shovel; some- 
times it was light, and flew in your nose and eyes. I 
made a pile of it six feet high, and shaped it into a 
brick-red pyramid with my shovel. I washed the 
arches white with a hose. 

"Change 'em before we tap," McLanahan ordered, 
nodding at the stoves. 

I went among the rangy hundred-foot shafts with a 
certain sense of control over great forces. Every set 
differs in its special crankiness. Number 9's have stiff- 
working valves, but are powerful heaters ; Number 8's 
are cool stoves, but their valves slide genially into 
place. I always a little dreaded "blowing her off." 
Resting my arms on the edge of the wheel, and grab- 
bing the top with my hands, I wrenched it over to the 
left, and the blast began. The immense volumes of 
compressed air escaped with a gradually accelerated 
blare. I gritted my teeth a little, and my ears sang. 

Then came "putting on the gas." I climbed to a 
little platform near the combustion chamber, and with 
a hunk of iron scrap for hammer, knocked out some 



DUST, HEAT, AND COMRADESHIP 99 

wedges that held tight a door. By now I knew just 
the pressure for making the iron slab creep on its 
rollers. I braced my feet and pulled with back and 
arms. 

Through the door, the combustion chamber glowed 
red. I went down the steps and slowly turned the gas- 
pipe crank, bringing an eight-inch pipe close to the red 
opening. I dodged the back flare as it ignited. 

When the "new" stove was on, and the "old" one 
lit for reheating, I went to the pyrometer shanty. In 
a little hut among the furnaces were tell-tale discs, 
that let you know if you were keeping your heat right. 
I found my heat curve was smooth with only a tiny 
hump. . . . Two Hunkies were inside the shanty. 

"Nine-thirty," said one. 

"How do you know?" I asked. 

He pointed to the end of the curve on the disc, that 
was opposite the 9.30 mark on the circumference. 

"Saves me a watch," he said, with a grin. 

After supper that evening, I mended a sleeve of my 
shirt that had been torn on a piece of cinder in the 
cast-house. Sounds of conversation were rising from 
the porch. I went out a,nd found Mr. Farrell sitting 
in a rocker with one leg on the railing and his face 
screwed into an attitude of thinking. Mrs. Farrell, 
having done the dishes, had come out to knit, and a 
lanky visitor, who leaned uncomfortably against the 
railing, was doing the talking. The conversation was 
political. 

"Before I came to this town, nobody had the guts 
to vote Democratic," said the visitor. "I'm from 



ioo STEEL 

Democratic parts," he went on, "and when I first 
come here I used to go round. ' Come, come,' I said, 
'you fellers is Democrats, you know you is. Sign up.' 
'We know it,' they'd say, 'but we can't afford ter, 
there 's the wife and kids we can't afford ter, we Ve 
got a job and we 're goin' to keep it.' That 's how bad 



it was." 



' You mean " 

"I mean you voted with the Company or pretty 
quick you moved out of Bouton, for you had n't any 
job to work at. ... I used ter work at glass blowin', 
that 's a real business " 

"Mr. Herder is always telling us how much better 
the glass business is than the steel business," said 
Mrs. Farrell. "You '11 have to get used to that." She 
gave everybody a smoothing-out smile. 

It was fun when you could pick up "dope" in the 
course of a morning's sweat. I learned one Sunday a 
few pointers about judging conditions through the 
peepholes. If there is a lot of movement, your 
furnace is O.K. If the cinder begins to settle into the 
tuyere, your furnace is cold. If she looks reddish, 
cold; blue, O.K. Don't be fooled by different colored 
glasses in the peepholes. 

One day we kept the stoves on "all heat" for the 
furnace was cold. "All you can give her, goddam 
'it," McLanahan said, looking through the peepholes. 
McLanahan was always a little ridiculous. Anxiety 
made him hop about and waddle from peephole to 
peephole, like a hen looking for grain. 



DUST, HEAT, AND COMRADESHIP 101 

I heaved on the hot-blast chain, and the indicator 
climbed. 

We had a pleasant, light brown chocolaty slag, that 
day, which meant good iron. When the metal runs 
out with large white speckles, she has too much sul- 
phur; when she smokes, you '11 get good iron. 

The other day they had too large a load of ore for 
the coke and stone in her. 

"Sledge!" yelled the keeper. 

A cinder-snapper brought up two, and held the 
bar while the keeper and first-helper sledged. They 
worked well, and I watched with fascination the ham- 
mer head whirl dizzily, and land true at the bar. 

At last the liquid slag broke through, jet-black 
as if it were molten coal, flowing thickly down the 
clay spout. The clay notch was hammered and eaten 
away, and had to be remade. 

I watched the stove-tender on Number 7 as he 
opened the cold-air valve. His motions were exactly 
calculated the precise blow, to an ounce, to loosen 
that wedge. 

"How long have you been sto ve- tender ?" I asked. 

"Ten years," he said. 

"Go down to the stockroom and tell the skip-man, 
one more coke," said McLanahan. 

I was glad to get a glimpse of that part of the blast- 
furnace operation. Gondola cars bring up ore and the 
other ingredients of blast-furnace digestion, and run 
over tracks with gaps between the sleepers. The cars, 
by means of their collapsible bottoms, drop the loads 



IQ2 ,. STEEL 

down through, and the material falls into an under- 
ground "stockroom." 

I entered it by climbing down two ladders, and 
found the skip-man at the base of one of the endless 
chains. The chamber had the appearance of a mine 
gallery de luxe. I looked at the tons of ore moving up- 
ward neatly, efficiently. What an incalculable saving 
of labor and time, this endless chain affair with its con- 
tinually moving boxes, over the old manner of hoist- 
ing painfully, in few-pound lots, by hand! 

I gave McLanahan's order to the skip-man and 
went up the ladders. 

You've got to tap, "when the iron's right," and 
when a little later the keeper held the steam drill in 
front of the mud wall of the tap hole, the steam 
stayed at home. There was no time for a steam-fitter. 

Young Lonergan and I beat it for the electric drill. 
It was heavy enough to make us waddle as we carried 
it on the run. 

"That's bludy funny," said McLanahan. The 
electric drill would n't electrify. A hurry call fol- 
lowed for the electrician. He smiled benignly while 
twelve sweaty men looked on. And in thirty seconds 
he fixed the connection, and we tapped in time to save 
the iron. 

When the drill had almost bored through the hard 
mud in the tap hole, the keeper shoved in a crowbar, 
and a couple of helpers sledged rhythmically for one 
minute. Then the molten iron broke the mud into 
bits, and tumbled out. Little sheets of flame from the 
slag skated along the top of the red river. It rose in 



DUST, HEAT, AND COMRADESHIP 103 

the runway with bubbles and smoke on top. The 
keeper grabbed a scraper an exaggerated hoe 
and started the slag through a side ditch. 

"Now try it," said Old Mac. 

By then, I had the test spoon ready, scooped up a 
bubbling ten pounds, carried it carefully, and poured 
it into two moulds. 

When I had broken the little ingots, still red, Mac 
said, "Too much sulphur." 

By now the metal stream had run to the edge of the 
cast-house and was falling spatteringly into a ladle ten 
feet below. 

Somebody said, "Whoop!" The negro keeper 
opened the iron gate of a new runway, and the metal 
rolled on its way to a second ladle. There were five 
to fill, each on a railway car. I noticed the switch 
engine was getting ready to drag the trainload of 
molten metal to the Bessemer. 

"Heow!" out of Old Lonergan's throat. The 
bottom of one ladle had fallen out and was letting 
down molten iron on the track. There was nothing to 
do but watch it. We did that. It covered the track 
like a red blood-clot, and ran off sizzling, and curdling 
in the sand. It cooled, blackened, and clotted over 
one rail about 10,000 pounds. 

"Who clean dat up?" I heard a Sicilian cinder- 
snapper say with a blank smile. 

After the furnaceful of metal had all flowed forth, 
we prepared to plug that tap. 

I went over to the other side of the tap hole, and 



104 STEEL 

picked up a piece of sheet iron. A shallow puddle of 
iron was still molten in the runway. The tap hole was 
crusting over with cooling iron, still aglow. I dropped 
the sheet iron over the runway. The helpers came up 
behind and dropped others. 

"Hey, you," said the keeper summoning a helper. 
They swung out the "mud gun" on a kind of crane 
and pointed its muzzle into the glowing aperture. It 
was a real gun, looked like a six-inch fieldpiece, but 
fired projectiles of mud by steam instead of powder. 

"Quick," said the keeper. 

I pushed a wheelbarrow towering with mud up to 
the sheet iron; then, with a long scoop-shovel stand- 
ing against the furnace, shoveled mud in the gun. The 
keeper stood almost over the runway with only the 
rapidly heating sheet-iron between himself and the 
liquid-metal puddle beneath. He operated a little 
lever that shot mud charges by steam into the hole. 
Every time he shot the gun, I took a new scoop of 
mud. We worked as fast as our arms let us. Some of 
the helpers kick at this part of their duties, but it is 
cooler by several degrees than the open-hearth, and 
thinking of those sizzling nights lightens it for me. 
Besides, it has excitement and requires a streak of 
skill. 

I spent several days with young Lonergan helping 
the water-tender, Ralph. 

"Water connections damn important thing," said 
Lonergan. I was beginning to see why. The whole 
wall of the great cone-shaped furnace was covered 



DUST, HEAT, AND COMRADESHIP 105 

with cooling water-conduits. Without these the fur- 
nace would melt away. 

We ranged from furnace to furnace, climbing up to a 
platform that ran around the fattest part and spend- 
ing long quarter-hours on our bellies unscrewing 
valves. There was always something leaking. Ralph 
could come and take a look at the furnace, and send 
us after tools. 

"Ralph's all right," said Lonergan, "has new 
names though for everything. Does n't call a goddam 
wrench a wrench, calls it a 'jigger.' Have to learn all 
your tools over again by his goddam Hunky names." 

Young Lonergan was very "white" to me, as they 
say. "I'll show you how to clean that peephole." 
And he grabs a cleaning rod, and imparts the knack 
of knocking cinder out of that important little ob- 
servation post. 

"I used to work stove-tender," he explained. 

"If you want to know anything ask Dippy, he'll 
talk, don't McLanahan, he don't know he's livin'. 
. . . Have a chew?" 

"No, I'll smoke." 

One day we had been discussing the bosses, and how 
they had got their start, till the talk drifted to young 
Lonergan and his own very typical career of youth. 

"Used to work on the open-hearth," he began. "I 
used to test the metal you know in the little shanty 
where 'Whiskers' is now. Chemist!" he grinned. 

"Then, by God, I went to work in the blooming- 
mill, chasing steel you know; keepin' track of all 
the ingots comin' in. A hell of a job by God you 



io6 STEEL 

did n't stop a second you knew you'd been workin', 
boy, when you pulled out in the mornin'. I worked 
my head off at that job. 

"Then I fought with Towers. He gave me a week. 
After I came back I had another run-in. . . . When 
I carried my bucket out o' that place, I was off work 
entirely. Did n't go to work for three months, thought 
I never would work again. 

" But after a hell of a spell, gotta job, pipe mill New 
Naples eight hours a good job, but the mill's 
shut down now. Then the suckers drafted me. Bal- 
loon comp'ny a bloody year and a half." 

There followed a very vast series of parties in the 
army, and explicit views on all the officers he 'd had. 
There was usually a new army story whenever I met 
him. He was extraordinarily clever in getting away 
with A. W. O. L.'s. 

"When I got my discharge, father wanted me to 
come to work here, so I did. Worked on those stoves 
where you are, for a while stove- tender helper, then 
stove-tender. Then I got this job. . . . Don't you 
chew ? ... I '11 lose it too if I take many more days 
off for sickness. Last time I was ' sick ' " he grinned 
"Bert Cahill and the bunch and I took three skirts 
in Bill's car to Monaca. -Had six quarts of damn good 
whiskey. I was out a week. Ralph says, when I come 
back: 'Pretty damn sick, you!' But to hell with 'em! 
I'm not afraid of my job." 

That little blower called Dippy, I found, knew the 
furnace game in all its phases with great practical 



DUST, HEAT, AND COMRADESHIP 107 

thoroughness. I used to try to get chances of talking 
with him on questions of technique. 

"What about those jobs in the cast-house? " I said 
one day, "the helper's jobs? Is n't it a good thing to 
know about those if you're learning the iron game? " 

"You don't want to work there," he said quickly, 
"only Hunkies work on those jobs, they 're too damn 
dirty and too damn hot for a 'white' man." 

So I got thinking over the "Hunky " business, and 
several other conversations came into my mind. 
Dick Reber, senior melter on the open-hearth, had 
once said, "There are a few of these Hunkies that are 
all right, and damn few. If I had my way, I 'd ship 
the whole lot back to where they came from." 

Then I thought of the incident of my getting 
chosen from the pit for floor work on the furnaces. 
Several times Pete, who was a Russian, discriminated 
against me in favor of Russians. Until Dick came 
along and began discriminating in my favor against 
the Hunkies. 

How many Hunkies have risen to foremen's jobs, 
I thought, in the two departments 'where I have 
worked ? One in the open-hearth a fellow who 
"stuck with the company" in the Homestead Strike 
and none on the blast-furnaces except Adolph, the 
stove-gang boss. 

My recollections were broken into by a call for 
violent action. 

"Cooler," yelled McLanahan, his voice going up 
into a husky shriek. 

That meant molten iron inside, melting the cone- 



io8 STEEL 

shaped water-chamber around the blast pipe. If let 
alone, the cooling at that place would cease, and in a 
short time there would follow an escape of molten 
metal. 

" Cooler ! " yelled on a blast-furnace means "Hurry 
like hell." 

I grabbed a wrench to take the nut off the "bridle" 
the first step in taking out a sort of outside cooler, 
the tuyere. 

"Bar," said the Serbian stove-tender very quietly, 
picking up a specially curved one, and McLanahan 
took the other end. 

Somebody knocked out some keys with a sledge, 
and the blowpipe fell on the curved bar, making the 
holders of it grunt. They took it off fast, for the 
instant the thing loosens, a flame shoots through the 
hole and licks its edges. 

Then the tuyere comes loose with a few strokes of 
a pull bar. All of these moves are fast; a tuyere 
goes bad every other day and men work fast like 
soldiers at a gun drill. 

But coolers don't break a lead but once in three 
months or so; and the cone 's heavier, the gang bigger, 
there 's less efficiency and more holler and sweat. 

When the pull bar gets into action it looks a little 
like a mediaeval mob with a battering ram. A "pull 
bar" is a tool designed to translate the muscle of 
many men into pull, on a small gripping edge against 
which sledging is impossible. At one end a thick hook 
grips the edge of the cooler, at the other a weight is 
brought against a flange that runs around the bar. 



DUST, HEAT, AND COMRADESHIP 109 

Everybody on the gang has a piece of a rope attach- 
ing to that weight. 

The stove gang moving between stoves Thirteen 
and Fourteen were caught and brought into this for 
muscle, and a couple of passing millwrights drafted. 

"Hold up the goddam end," from Steve, boss by 
common consent. 

"A little beef this time!" from a blower. "What 
the hell 's the matter, sick ? " 

We all swear between breaths, and take a grip 
higher on the rope the weight cracks the flange 
again, and makes the bar shiver. 

When the new cooler, which resembles more nearly 
a gigantic flower pot, without any bottom, than 
anything else, is in place, there's a cry of: "Big 
Dolly!" 

That involves four or five men, lifting a kind of 
ramrod with a square hammer-end, from the rack, 
and lugging it to the cooler. 

I get near the ramming end this time; Tony is near 
me on the other side. Together we hold the hammer 
against the cooler. As the end strikes, the jar goes 
back through the men's hands. 

"Now top." 

Arms raise the bar painfully, and hold it poised a 
little unsteadily, sway back, tense, and drive. 

"Hold it, hold it on the cooler, goddam you." 

Tony and I had let our arms shake a fraction, and 
the hammer fell glancing on the cooler's edge. 

"Now!" 

Seated this time. Arms relax and stretch. 



i io STEEL 

When things are ready, Adolph makes the water 
connections. 

"Hold de goddam shovel, what you t'ink, I burn 
up." 

A cinder-snapper holds a shovel in front of the hole 
to keep the flame from his hands. 

"All right, all right." 

The job 's done; the millwrights pick up their tools, 
and the stove gang moves off leisurely to their clean- 
ing. I hear the superintendent talking with a blower 
near the sample box. 

"They did that in pretty good time," he says. 

I used to eat my lunch and kept my clothes in a 
little brick shanty near Number 4, sharing it with the 
Italians of the stove gang. Although by the bosses' 
arrangement it was a mixed gang, Italian and Slav, 
the mixture did not extend to shanty arrangements, 
and race lines prevailed. I felt that I should learn low 
Italian in a few weeks if I continued with this group; 
the flow of it against my ear drums was incessant and 
some of it had already forced an entrance. Besides I 
was learning a great deal about: how to live, what to 
wear on your head, on your feet, and next your skin ; 
where to get it good material to resist the blast- 
furnace, and cheap as well; wisdom in eating and 
drinking, and saving money, in resting, in working, in 
getting a job and keeping it. 

There was a whole store of industrial mores. In 
some respects the ways of living of these workmen 
seemed as rooted and traditional as the manners of 



DUST, HEAT, AND COMRADESHIP in 

monarchs, and as wise. I won considerable merit, 
when I brought in a kersey cap that I got for seventy- 
five cents, and lost much when I reluctantly admitted 
the price of my brown suit. 

Everyone on the gang performed the washing up 
after work with the greatest thoroughness and success. 
They devoted minute attention to the appearance of 
clothes worn home. Rips and holes got a neat patch 
at once, and shoes were tapped at the proper period 
before holes appeared. I have seen only one or two 
men in the mill who were not clean in their going- 
home clothes. 

I talked to John one day on the subject of neat- 
ness. He asked, "You have to clean up good in the 
army? " 

I dilated on the necessity of policing when wearing 
khaki. 

He said: "Man that no look neat, no good. I no 
like him, girls no look at him. Bah!" 

I was almost always offered some food from the 
bursting dinner buckets of my friends: a tomato, 
some sausage, a green pepper, some lettuce and cu- 
cumbers. I accepted gladly for it was always superior 
to my restaurant provender. 

Tony told me one day that Jimmy had come over 
"too late from old country, to learn speak English 
and be American." He was thirty-one years old. 
He was going back this Christmas. And Tony was 
going too, but just for a visit. They were going to 
Rome. We had talked it over a good many times, all 
Italy in fact, people, women, farms. Tony turned to 



H2 STEEL 

me: "You come Italy with Jimmy and me this 
Christmas? We go see Rome." 

I assented quickly, wishing I somehow could, and 
was extraordinarily proud of that invitation. 

I must not forget the occasion of the green pepper. 
One noon I sat beside Jimmy during the lunch hour. 
The whole Italian wing were together, sitting on 
benches in the brick shanty. Jimmy reached among 
the loaves of bread in his bucket, and hauled out a 
green pepper as big as an orange. He offered it to me 
and I accepted. 

Treating it like my old friends the stuffed peppers, 
I bit deep. The whole shanty watched eagerly for 
results. I had n't reckoned its raw strength and in- 
stantly felt like a blast-furnace on all heat. Despite all 
efforts I could n't keep my face in shape, or resist 
putting out the fire with the water jug. The pleasure 
I furnished the Roman mob was enormous. 

After that I learned to eat green peppers rationally 
and agree with my friends that they are beneficial. 
Beyond their health qualities they have an economic 
justification. With their help you can make a meal of 
cheap dry bread. Plain and unbuttered it costs you 
but six cents a half loaf which is a full meal, and hot 
green peppers will compel you to stow it away in self- 
defense. As Tony phrases it: 

"Pepper, make you eat bread like hell! " 

Tony thinks that Americans eat too much that is 
sweet; it makes them logy and sleepy. I think he is 
right. Joe claims that the people in America do not 
know how to make bread; the wheat he says is cut 



DUST, HEAT, AND COMRADESHIP 113 

when it is too green. The gang, of course, bring 
Italian bread in their buckets. It is certain that the 
American lunch of a soggy sandwich and piece of 
pie leaves a man heavy for the afternoon. The 
average dinner bucket in the shanty contains: a loaf 
of bread, a piece of meat, lamb, beef, chicken, or 
sausage, -- three or four green peppers, a couple of 
tomatoes, a bunch of grapes, and some vegetable 
mixture like tomatoes chopped with cucumbers and 
lettuce. 

One day the gang got absorbed in stunts, climbing 
a ladder with the hands, giving a complete twist to a 
hammer with grip the same, the usual turning trick of 
a broomstick held to the floor, etc. My contribution 
was squatting slowly on the right leg with the left 
stiff and parallel with the floor. John complained of a 
lame thigh for three days after, I am gratified to say. 

With Tony I occasionally picked a wrestling quar- 
rel; he has a terrific grip and one day very nearly 
squeezed the life out of me in a fit of playfulness. I 
called him "Orso" afterward for his squeezing at- 
tribute. Tony's make-up includes a sense of humor. 
One day when he had rolled about on the floor in front 
of Number 3, he said: "Ain't you 'shamed, Charlie, 
you young man, fight old man like me. You twenty- 
two, twenty-three, me thirty-seven!" 

Tony could put me beyond this vale of tears with 
his left hand. 



VIII 
I TAKE A DAY OFF 

I DECIDED on a day off. John had lately taken one 
for the festival at New Naples, and had come in to 
work the next morning with the wine still at festivals 
in his head. Sitting atop the blast-furnaces the other 
day, looking at the blue rivers and the three hills, and 
speculating about men going down to the sea in ships 
because of the fat river-boat we could see had 
made me sicken of the smell of flue-dust. I decided to 
take a day off. 

Sometimes the foreman, when you got back after 
cutting a turn, would say, "I don't believe you want 
this job ; you like loafing better; I '11 give it to Jimmy." 
But with a seven-day week, only the mean ones 
hollered. Men took an occasional holiday. 

I ate breakfast with a very conscious leisure at 
George's, putting down scrambled eggs, at 8.00 
o'clock, instead of the coffee and toast at 5.15 A.M. 

"No work to-day," said George; "lotza mon', 
eh?" 

"Wrong, "said I. 

"Mebbe you see best girl to-day." 

"Guess again." 

"Married?" 

"No." 



I TAKE A DAY OFF 115 

"Mr. Vincent's wife is sick," said George, changing 
the subject. 

"Oh, I 'm sorry." 

"He no work to-day; come in here for breakfast, 
ten minutes before you." 

Vincent was a young American, twenty-one or two, 
whose brother I had known in college. He had not 
gone himself, but took a straw boss's job in the pipe 
mill. He had married six months before, and his wife 
lived with him in two rooms in Bickford Lodge the 
other hotel in Bouton. We went to the movies to- 
gether sometimes, and often met for supper at the 
Greek's. 

I looked for Vincent, and found him reading the 
"Saturday Evening Post" in the front room. 

"Elizabeth is sick," he explained. "I'm sticking 
around to-day." 

We fell to talking mill. 

"What hours do you work now?" I asked. 

"Six to six." 

"You get up at five." 

"Yes, about that." 

'That 's not true, Philip," came over the transom 
from the sick room. "I set the alarm at four-thirty, 
Phil sleeps till five-thirty, drinks one cup of coffee, 
leaves his eggs, and catches the twenty-of-six car." 

: 'You now have the story," said Phil. "It's a 
stinking long day, is n't it?" 

"Phil has it all figured out," Elizabeth shouted 
from the back room. " From six to nine, he pays his 
rent " 



ii6 STEEL 

"Yes, I've figured it that way," he said. "The 
money I earn between nine and one is enough to pay 
my day's board and my wife's; one to three is clothes 
and shoes ; three to five, all other expenses ; five to six 
I work for myself!" 

"That 's bully; I think I '11 figure mine." 

"But there aren't any evenings, are there," he 
went on, "or any Sundays?" 

Suddenly he looked up at the chandelier. "See all 
the pipes in that," he said; "I find pipes and tubes 
everywhere, since I 've worked in the mill. It 's darn 
interesting to pick them out. The radiator in this 
room is made of pipe, see; the bed in the back room; 
notice those banisters outside. I see them everywhere 
I look. If I had a little money, I 'd put it in a pipe mill. 
? S money in that game, once you get the market; 
Coglin and I have it all doped out." 

For fifteen minutes, Phil's enthusiasm for pipe- 
manufacture built the mills of the future. 

Toward noon I went to George's. The pit crane- 
man, Herb, was there, eating George's roast beef and 
boiled potato, and looking half asleep. 

"I '11 fire you," I said. 

"I'm on nights this week," he returned, with a 
slow smile; "I could n't sleep, so I thought I'd get 
up and eat some. Besides, I 've got to go to the bank. 
You 're with the blast-furnaces now, huh? " 

"Yes." 

"Like 'em?" 

"Yes, I think I '11 like blast-furnace work," I said 



I TAKE A DAY OFF 117 

"if I get to be stove-tender or something. Good boss, 
Beck." 

"They say so. Pete's as crabby as ever in our 
place. He fired one of the second-helpers last week, 
Eric d 'you know him ? Used to come in drunk 
every day, worked for Jock on Eight." 

"That's too bad," I said; "he gave everyone a 
good time. Let me tell you how I amuse the gang on 
the blast-furnace. You know the way they break in- 
gots for a test on the open-hearth? " 

"Yes." 

"It's not like that with us. I gave everybody on 
Five a treat because I thought it was." 

Herb looked interested. 

"Of course, on the open-hearth you pick them up 
with a tongs, when they 're red-hot, and cool them in 



water." 



Herb nodded. 

"So there are always halves of test-ingots on the 
floor, cold. On the blast-furnace the stove-tender 
pours the test and knocks it out of the mould. Iron 
breaks easier than steel, so he never bothers to cool 
the ingot, but breaks it red-hot. Last Wednesday I 
wander up from the stoves when the furnace is ready 
to tap. The blower kicks busted halves of a test-ingot 
out of the way, and somebody says, ' A little too much 
sulphur.' I 'm ambitious to learn iron smelting, too, 
and think I '11 study the fracture. I walk in front of 
the blower and pick up the test." 

Herb grinned. 

"It was n't red-hot," I went on; "but it had 



n8 STEEL 

blackened over just. I dropped it, and snapped 
my hand three feet behind me. The blower, the stove- 
tender, the first, second, and third helpers, and the 
assistant superintendent, who were all gathered, en- 
joyed the thing all over the place for several minutes. 
It gave them a good time for the afternoon." 

When I left Herb, I took a walk through the Greek 
and Slavic quarters, and stopped a while on Superin- 
tendent's Hill, to study the graded superiority of fore- 
men and superintendents. There were excellent little 
houses here, though too young and new to express 
any other character than moderate prosperity. Per- 
haps it was an ungracious thing to demand more. 

I walked on, past farms, and up and down consider- 
able hills. I lay down on the ground, in high grass, 
under apple trees which were near a tumble-down 
stone wall. It was enormously satisfactory to lie in 
the high grass, under an apple tree, listening to the 
small August noises for a swift hour and a half. 

After supper, I wanted badly to take a look at 
furnace fires against a night sky, and stepped out 
alone to do it. Close to the railroad station I set foot 
on the hill, and climbed past a Greek hotel and stag- 
gering tenements to a ridge. From there I could look 
over multitudinous roofs to the flat spaces by the 
river, where the mills roared and shone. 

I heard heavy things dropped here and there over 
acres of plate flooring; they melted into a roar. The 
even whirr of the power house increased it, and the 
shrieks of machinery gave it a streaky quality. There 
were staccato punctuations, of course, by the whistles, 



I TAKE A DAY OFF 119 

and when a distant " blaw " came to me, I thought how 
loudly it drove into the ears of the hot-blast man, 
turning his wheel by a stove. But it was mostly the 
summed-up roar that occupied your head an in- 
sistent thing, that made you excited and weary at the 
same time. The mills had been running for ten years; 
they always had a night-shift in Bouton. 

It is easy to get excited about a steel-mill sky at 
night. I like to look at them. There were n't many 
lights at the nail mill but just enough to show broken 
outlines of a sheet-iron village there. The rolling-mills 
gave some of the brightness of hot billets through the 
windows, and over the stacks of the open-hearth were 
sparks. By closing my eyes, I could see curdling flame 
in the belly of Number 7. The open-hearth fires 
showed themselves, a confused glow under a tin roof. 

Some little light came on the mills out of the night 
itself, though thin clouds kept washing the face of the 
moon, and now and then a blast-furnace got into the 
moonlight and looked perfectly confused with its pipe 
labyrinth and its stoves. 

From where I stood, I could see the Bessemer con- 
verter pouring a fluid rope of white light; I knew it for 
a stream the thickness of a hydrant. A rusty, glowing 
cloud rose over the converter, changing always, and 
turning that patch of sky into gold. The pattern of 
smoke the blower knows like a textbook, and follows 
the progress of his steel by the color of the cloud. 

My mind swept over many memories as I looked at 
the yellow fire of the Bessemers. There was no order 
or arrangement in them. They were a stream, thick 



120 STEEL 

in some passages, shallow in others, with scraps of all 
sorts riding over the top. One scrap was the price the 
Wop cobbler charged for soling, and another, Dick's 
words when he damned me for forgetting a bag of 
coal. Then there were things that wrung me and 
made the palms of my hands wet, as if thoughts went 
over nerves and not brain. 

I looked over at the eight stacks of the open-hearth, 
closed my eyes, and saw Seven tapping. The second- 
helper broke the mud stoppage with his "picker," and 
liquid steel belched. Pete held up two fingers. Stanley 
the Pole was third-helper with me. We shoveled in 
the two piles. I could feel heat in my nose and throat 
and sparks light on the blue handkerchief I had tied 
around my neck. We cooled off in a breeze between 
the two furnaces, and as we caught our breath, 
watched Herb swing the ladleful, over the moulds 
for pouring. 

I lived through the dragged hours in the morning of 
a long turn. Between two and four is worst I 
remembered " fixing the spout" with Nick at three 
wheelbarrow loads of mud and dolomite a pitched 
battle with sleep 

At intervals in my memories, I grew conscious of 
the steady roar the mills sent me from the river; then 
forgot it, quite. 

Finished ladles of iron came into mind, and I tried 
to follow in the dark the path they would take along 
tracks to the Bessemer. Thick red ingots of steel, big 
as gravestones, I knew, were coming from "soaking 
pits" to rolls, and getting flattened into blooms and 



I TAKE A DAY OFF 121 

billets. I could see trainloads of even steel shapes 
moving out of the freight yard to become the steel 
framework of the world. 

"It is perfectly certain that civilization is kept 
from slipping, by a battle," I said to myself, begin- 
ning a line of thought. 

An express train shot into view in the black valley 
at my feet, and passed the Bouton station, with that 
quickly accelerating screech that motion gives. I 
thought of the steel in the locomotive, and thought 
it back quickly into sheets, bars, blooms, back then 
into the monumental ingots as they stood, fiery from 
the open-hearth pouring, against a night sky. Then 
the glow left, and went out of my thinking. Each in- 
got became a number of wheelbarrow loads of mud, 
pushed over a rough floor, Fred's judgment of the 
carbon content, and his watching through furnace 
peepholes. The ladlefuls ceased as steel, becoming 
thirty minutes' sledging through stoppage for four 
men, the weight of manganese in my shovel, and the 
clatter of the pieces that hit the rail, sparks on my 
neck burning through a blue handkerchief, and the 
cup of tea I had with Jock, cooked over hot slag at 
4.00 A.M. 

A battle certainly, to make an ingot trench work 
in a quiet sector, perhaps, but a year-after-year affair. 
The multiform steel prop which civilization hung 
upon came to me for a moment rails, skyscrapers, 
the locomotive just passed, machinery that was mak- 
ing the ornament and substance of the environment 
of men. It rested on muscle and the will to push 



122 STEEL 

through "long turns," I thought. It could slip so 
easily. A huge mistaken calculation : not enough coal 
or cars to carry it. Or what if the habitual movements 
of the muscles were broken, or the will fallen into dis- 
temper ? Suppose men thought it not worth the can- 
dle, and stopped to look on? 

Were we to get more of the kind of civilization we 
knew, conquer more ground, or have less of it? It de- 
pended on the battle. And that hung, I was sure, on 
the morale of the fighter. I wondered if it was n't 
cracking badly 

But at this point I considered how late it was, and 
whether it was not time for bed, that I might not have 
bad morale myself, with a headache added to it, at 
6.00 A.M. 

The roar again I began breaking it up once more 
into the fragments of grind and rattle that composed 
it. In imagination I jumped on the step of the charg- 
ing-machine as it moved on its rails past Seven. It 
shook and jarred grumpily about its business, I 
thought. 

Near Five I got off, and started to make front-wall. 
I remembered how I felt on a front-wall a few weeks 
ago. I had tried to throw my mind into the unsleeping 
numbness that protects a little against the load of 
monotony. Other men I had seen do it, drawing a cur- 
tain over nine tenths of their brain; not thinking, but 
only day-dreaming faintly behind the curtain, leav- 
ing enough attention to the fore for plunging the 
shovel into dolomite, and keeping the arms out of heat. 

Other passages from open-hearth shifts came into 



I TAKE A DAY OFF 123 

my mind in violent contrast. Shorty, who was always 
clearly to be distinguished anywhere on the floor be- 
cause he wore his khaki shirt outside his pants, quar- 
reled with me one day, and showed his temper, as one 
shows temper in Italy. He stood by the drinking 
fountain back of Number 4, hair on end, chest bare, 
his eyes a little bloodshot, and his mouth sullen 
and drawn at the corners, as it always was. The 
argument was about a shovel. Shorty took out a 
long knife from his pocket and explained its use in 
argument. 

I remembered how the mill stayed in your mind 
when you left it. In the hour or so in which you 
washed up, walked home, ate, and went to bed, it 
loomed as a black sheet-iron foreman, demanding that 
you get to bed and prepare for the noise and jar it had 
in store for you at 5.00 o'clock. That sense of im- 
minence was a thing to bear, especially if you won- 
dered whether sleep would come at all. 

Then there were long strings of neutral days when 
you did not think well of life, or ill of it. And there 
were the occasional satisfactions. The keen pleasure 
of acquiring a knack, as when I learned to "get it 
across" in back-wall. And the pleasures of rough- 
house. Jock, the first-helper on Seven, had once told 
me in a burst of enthusiasm for furnace work that he 
"liked the game because there was so much hell- 



raisin' in it.'' 



In the midst of listening to the roar, and thinking of 
shifts, good and bad, it occurred to me abruptly that 



124 STEEL 

men would make front-walls in front of hot furnaces 
for several hundred years, in all likelihood. I won- 
dered. Perhaps Mr. Wells's army of inventors would 
alter that. For several hundred years, thousands of 
men had labored without imagination or hope in 
Egypt, and built the Pyramids. There were similari- 
ties. Civilization rested on the uninspired, unimagi- 
native drudgery of nine tenths of mankind. " There 
have always been hewers of wood, and drawers of 
water," I heard some elderly person say at me, in a 
voice of finality. 

I did not stop to reply to the implications of that 
sentence in my own mind, but thought more closely of 
the Pyramid-builders I had known in the pit. 

Marco drew Croatian words for me with a piece of 
chalk on his shovel, and I put down English ones for 
him. He had attended night school after working 
twelve hours a day in Pittsburgh. But Marco was, 
perhaps, exceptionally gifted. 

The jobs we did were pick-and-shovel jobs. But 
have you ever used a pick on hot slag? There is judg- 
ment and knack, and he is a fool who says that "any- 
one can do the job." Whenever the chance for special 
skill happened by, as in hooking the crane to a diffi- 
cult piece of scrap, there was an abundance, and much 
rivalry to show it off. Could such substance of 
"knacks" ever grow into anything more for this 
"nine tenths of mankind? " I wonder. 

How much of strength, of skill, of possible loyalty, 
does modern industry tap from the average Hunky? 



I TAKE A DAY OFF 125 

I asked the question, but did not answer it for 
modern industry. I answered it for the gang in the 
pit and the crew on the stoves of the blast-furnace. 

Not half. 

There were vast unused areas of men's minds and 
of their muscles, as well as of their powers of will, that 
were wholly unreached in the rough job adjustment of 
modern industry. I mean among the so-called groups 
of " lower intelligence." It was an interesting specula- 
tion whether any engineer would ever find a means of 
tapping this unused voltage. 

I suddenly thought how inconceivable the stoppage 
of that roar would be. A silent valley, with all those 
ordered but gigantic forces stopped, would be almost 
terrible. But just such a silence was likely to happen. 
By a walk-out. 

The great strike had been going a week, in other 
towns -- tying up the steel production of the country. 
Meetings had followed, and riots, with an occasional 
bloody conflict with the "mud guard" of Pennsyl- 
vania. 

Part of that untapped force! I said to myself 
dynamos of power of all sorts. Would it bludgeon over 
a change in steel conditions, or flow back, waste volt- 
age, into the ground? 

The rumble in the valley again. Could I hear the 
shake of the charging-machine at this distance? The 
Bessemer glow had changed. The nail mill roar 
seemed to increase. 

I went down the hill. When I reached Mrs. Farrell's 



126 STEEL 

and climbed into my back room, I set the alarm for 
4.00 o'clock, putting the clock a foot and a half from 
the bed. It has a knob on top, and you can stop it by 
knocking down the knob with the palm of your hand. 
I went to sleep, to dream about the men who built the 
Pyramids. 



IX 
"NO CAN LIVE" 

I WENT into the employment office one day, to fix 
up the papers of my transfer to the blast-furnace, and 
got into a talk with Burke, the employment manager, 
about personnel work. 

"What do you think of the game? " I asked. 

" It 's great," he returned ; " it 's working with human 
material that's what it is; there's nothing like it. 
But," he added, "if you have any ideas about unions 
keep them in the back of your head that is, if you 
want a job in steel. They won't stand for that sort of 
thing." 

He looked down on his desk, where there was a 
news-clipping of the demands of the American Fed- 
eration of Labor's Strike Committee the twelve 
demands. He pointed to it. 

"We give them practically all of these here in 
Bouton," he said, "all but two or three." 

: 'The eight-hour day?" I queried. 
'Yes, we give them the eight-hour day. Overtime 
for everything over eight hours." 

"Could I stop work to-day after eight hours' work 
on the furnace? " I asked. "Could anyone before six 
o'clock, and hold his job?" 

"Oh, no," he returned. 



128 STEEL 

66 1 should call that a twelve-hour day," I said. 

The "safety man" came in, and interrupted. He 
was a stocky young man with the intelligent face of 
an engineer. 

"That man might do something for the steel- 
worker," I thought. 

The men on the furnaces were talking about the 
strike that day. One young American said: "Well, 
strike starts Monday. Damned if I won't go if the 
rest do." 

There were no leaders about, and it was unlikely, 
perhaps, that any would appear. There seemed to be 
a current opinion that any organizers "get taken off 
the train before they get to Bouton." 

The Old Home Week Carnival had been called off 
through the influence of the mill authorities. They 
were afraid of a strike committee coming from the 
next town, and having a parade to lead the men out. 

A special train went through Bouton that day at 
about five o'clock. Everyone watched it from the 
furnaces, and speculated what it meant. It was a 
double-header and passed through at top speed. 

"Troops going to quell strike riots," the Assistant 
Superintendent, Lonergan, suggested. "A lot of those 
fellers are overseas men of the National Guard. 
They 're havin' trouble with 'em. I don't blame the 
boys a damn bit for not wantin' 'to preserve order in 
the steel towns,' as the papers call it," he concluded, 
with a grin. 

Haverly, an American blower, came up. "Fight 



"NO CAN LIVE" 129 

for democracy overseas and against it over here," he 
said. 

It is difficult to say what the men here would have 
done if they had had leadership. They had none, 
since no organizers whatever appeared, and no speech- 
making occurred in town. There was pretty good 
feeling toward the company itself, which is, I believe, 
one of the best. A deep-seated hatred, however, ex- 
isted against the whole system of steel. There was 
anger and resentment that ran straight through, 
from the cinder-snapper to the h'gh-paid blowers, 
melters, and, in some cases, to the superintendents. 

I was quite amazed because of what the news- 
papers were continually saying at the absence of 
any sociological ideas whatever. I remember one day 
I met my first and only Socialist. He was a stove- 
tender of great skill and long experience; he told me 
how bad he thought war was, and how he could n't 
understand why people did n't live in peace and be 
sociable with one another. But, though there were few 
doctrines, except in rare instances, there was a mighty 
stream of complaint against certain things such as 
the company-owned town, the twelve-hour day, the 
twenty-four-hour shift, the seven-day week, and cer- 
tain remediable dangers. It pervaded all ranks. 

There were certain days in my summer in the mills 
that burned among the others like a hot ingot of steel 
on the night-shift. One of them was the cleaning out 
of No. IS stove early in my gang apprenticeship. 
Ordinarily, the duties of the stove gang were to move 

10 



130 STEEL 

leisurely from stove to stove while they were alight, 
and remove cinder from the combustion chambers. 
It was pried up with a crowbar, and hoed out on to 
a wheelbarrow. But when a stove was cooled for 
thorough cleaning, we did our real work. 

The gas was turned off in the combustion chamber 
on the night-shift, and the stove allowed to cool for 
several hours. We prepared to go inside her, the next 
morning, to cut away the hardened cinder. John, the 
Slav, went in first, with pick and shovel, and worked 
an hour. Then Tony turned to me. 

"You go in with me, I show you," he said. 

We put on wooden sandals, foot-shaped blocks an 
inch thick, with lacing straps, donned jackets that 
buttoned very tight in the neck, and pulled down the 
ear-flaps of our kersey caps. Over our eyes we wore 
close-fitting goggles. We looked like Dutch peasants 
dressed for motoring. The combustion chamber is a 
space eight or ten feet long by three or four wide. It 
was partly filled with cooling cinder, some of it yield- 
ing to the pick, some only to the bar and sledge. 
Someone shoved an electric light through the hot- 
blast valve, and the appearance of the place was like 
a mine gallery. The chamber was hot and gaseous, 
but it was quite possible to work inside over an hour. 
After Tony had loosened several shovelfuls, I could 
see that the pick failed against a great shelf of the 
stuff that glowed red along its base. 

" Bar," he called. 

The bar came in through the little round door in 
three or four minutes. He held it for me, and I sledged. 



"NO CAN LIVE" 131 

It needed a little work like this to make you yearn 
for real air. The heat weakened you quickly. We 
worked about forty minutes, and then lay on our 
bellies and wriggled out. The means of entrance and 
egress is a small door, about fourteen inches in diame- 
ter, which means absorbing a good deal of cinder 
when you caterpillar through. 

We finished the whole job in three hours, and then 
went to the other side of the stove and cleared out 
half a carload of flue-dust from the brick arches that 
compose the groundwork of that side of the stove. 
The dust lay a foot or two thick, and one man worked 
with a shovel in each archway. Here it was hardly 
hot at all, but merely thick with the red iron-dust. 
As you bent over inside the archways, knee-deep in 
the stuff, it would rise and settle on your arms and 
shoulders; you kept up a blowing with your nose to 
keep it out. Some of it was hard and soggy, and 
pleasanter shoveling. Five or six of us could work in- 
side the stove at once, in the different archways, each 
with a teapot lamp near by, and a large, light shovel. 
Men at the entrances hoed the stuff out as we threw 
back. 

But it was the next day's cleaning that I remember 
most strongly. The word went about that we were to 
"poke her out," to-morrow. That night the gang, 
and especially John, the Italian, instructed me very 
seriously to bring a selected list of clothing the next 
morning: a jacket, a cap with flaps for the ears, two 
pairs of gloves, and two bandanna handkerchiefs. 

We went on top of Number IS, and started to dress 



132 STEEL 

for the job of poking her out. Over our faces we tied 
the handkerchiefs, leaving only our eyes exposed. 
Our necks and ears were covered with the winter 
caps, our hands with two pairs of gloves. 

The stove, as I said, looked like a very tall boiler: 
half was a long brick-lined flue, where the gas burned; 
half, a mass of brick checkerwork for retaining the 
heat. Masses of flue-dust had clogged the holes in the 
checkerwork and reduced its power for holding heat. 
It was our job to poke out that dust. 

John and Mike and I unscrewed the trap at the top 
very deliberately, and dropped a ladder down. There 
was a space left at the top of the checkerwork for 
cleaning purposes. We worked on top of that. 

Jimmy, I think, went in first, taking a teapot 
lamp with him and a rod. In three minutes he was 
out again, and Mike down. I began to wonder 
what the devil they faced for three minutes in the 
chamber. Tony looked at me and said, "I teach 
you, now." 

I tied the handkerchiefs around my face, sticking 
the end of one in my collar, and followed Tony. 

My first sensation, as I stepped off the ladder to the 
checkerwork inside the stove, was relief. It was hot, 
but quite bearable. I picked my way slowly to Tony, 
and tried to study in the dull light his motions with 
the rod. The dust was too thick and the lamp guttered 
too violently for me to follow his hand. I bent over 
to watch the end of his rod, and recoiled. I felt as I 
had when the ladle got under me on the manganese 
platform flame seemed to go in with breath. It was 



"NO CAN LIVE" 133 

the hot blast that continued to rise from the checker- 
work, and made it impossible to work beyond three 
minutes in the stove. 

When I mounted the ladder, and moved out into 
the air, I thought, " I have n't learned much from 
Tony, except that he somehow cleaned the checker- 
work, and it 's best to keep the head high ; no more 
bending." 

Five minutes passed, and I was scheduled to take 
my turn alone. Every man poked three holes and 
came up. I was full of resolutions for glory and poked 
four, coming up rather elated. John looked at me 
sadly when I stepped off the ladder. 

"What 's the matter, Charlie? You only poke 'em 
half out." He simulated my motions with the rod. I 
had n't qualified. 

John, the Slav, was tying his handkerchief back of 
his ears. 

"I show him; you come with me, Charlie, I show 
you all right." 

I was n't gleeful. The last time I had done a job 
with John, we had carried pipes, many more at a 
time than anyone else. John, I anticipated, would 
stay in the stove, poking away, till ordinary mortals 
lost their lungs. 

He picked up a poking rod, after very carefully 
putting on his gloves, and went over to the ladder, 
descending slowly. I followed him with my teeth in 
my lips, feeling for the rungs of the ladder with my 
feet, and holding my poking rod in my right hand. 
When L stepped off at the bottom, I felt my fingers 



134 STEEL 

closing over the bent handle of the rod in a death 
grip. I determined on no half-way poking. 

John set to work at once, and I after him, rattling 
my rod in the checkerwork with all my strength, and 
pushing her in up to the hilt. I did three holes, and 
John four. My lungs were like paper on fire, when 
John turned to go up. We climbed out of the hole, 
and took down the handkerchiefs. The gang looked 
at me, and then at John. 

"He do all right," he cried rather loudly, "every 
time all right." 

I felt extraordinarily elated, and much as if John 
had given me a diploma, with a cum laude inscribed 
in gold letters. 

There was later a trip down inside with Jimmy. He 
shouted a great many things at me in Anglo-Italian, 
which caused me a good deal of anxiety but no under- 
standing. I learned on coming up that he was trying 
to tell me not to approach the combustion chamber 
adjoining the checkerwork. That is a clear shaft to 
the bottom. I was given in some detail the story of 
the man who fell down a year ago, and was found 
with no life in him at the bottom. 

"Kill him quick," said John the Italian; "take him 
out through hot-blast valve." 

Two burns on my wrists were an embarrassing 
legacy of this affair, for they required an explanation 
whenever I took off my coat. My arms were too long 
and shot from my sleeves, when poking out, and got 
exposed to the gas and flame, which were still rising in 
the checkerwork. 



"NO CAN LIVE" 135 

This incident put me into good standing with John, 
the Slav, I am delighted to say. He was a stoical 
person, without much conversational warmth, but he 
approached me at the foot of the furnace steps in the 
late afternoon; "Some people, no show new man; I 
show him, I Slovene, no Italian, been in this country 
eighteen year." That was about all, but enough for a 
basis of friendship. 

I sat on my bed and sewed up a rip in my trousers, 
eleven inches long. It was lucky I had salvaged that 
khaki " housewife" from the army. My gray flannel 
shirt lay on the bed. There were little holes, you 
could pass matches through, all over it, with brown 
edges that sparks had made. 

Would that sleeve last? 

I made it last. 

Then there were the pants. 

That second-hand paint-spattered pair of mine had 
lasted five days. The next, a sort of overally 
kind, had stood it a month, the last week in entire 
disgrace; these mohair ones I got at the Company 
store were going yet. But the seat needed emergency 
attention. 

After sewing-time, I got up and stared out of the 
window at Mrs. FarrelPs four stalks of corn. They 
were doing well. I looked across at the back road, 
along which a junk-dealer's wagon jangled. The mud 
cliff was the horizon of the prospect. I watched a little 
stream going down it among roots, which I had 
watched a good many times before, and finally picked 



136 STEEL 

up my army field-shoes, and took them out to a Greek 
cobbler for resoling. 

I shall remember for all time the "blowing in" of 
Number 9, which means its first lighting up. A blast- 
furnace, once lit, remains burning till the end of its 
existence. I got inside her, and was delighted to 
satisfy a deep-seated curiosity: we crawled in the 
cinder notch. The hearth of the furnace lay six or 
eight feet below the brick flooring, and the effect of 
standing inside, with the fourteen round blowpipe 
holes admitting a little sunlight, was like being in a 
round ship's cabin, with fourteen portholes, except 
that the hollow furnace shot up to dark distances 
that the light did n't penetrate. 

We built a scaffolding six or eight feet above the 
hearth to hold firewood, and filled in beneath with 
shavings and kindling. Then we took in cords upon 
cords of six-foot sticks and set them on end on top; 
there were two or three layers of these, and on top of 
them, according to the orthodox rule, were dumped 
quantities of coke, dumped down from the top, of 
course, by skips; and above that, light charges of ore. 
Belowthe scaffold, we spent half a day arranging kin- 
dling, with shavings placed at each blowpipe hole. 
When the wood was arranged, a three-days' job, 
the crane brought us some barrels of petrol, and we 
poured about half a one in each blowpipe hole. The 
cinder notch was likewise thoroughly provided with 
soaked shavings. That was to be the torch. 

Men assembled as at a house-raising. Nobody 



"NO CAN LIVE" 137 

worked from 11.00 to 12.00 on the day of blowing in 
Number 9. From all parts of the blast-furnace they 
came, and arranged themselves about the cinder notch, 
and on the girders above. The men and their bosses 
came. There was the labor foreman, and the foreman 
of all the carpenters, of all the window-glass fixers, all 
the blowers, the electricians, the master mechanic. 
Then came the superintendent of the open-hearth and 
Bessemer, Mr. Towers, and Mr. Brown his boss; and, 
finally, Mr. Erkeimer, the G. M., with an unknown 
Mr. Clark from Pittsburgh. 

We waited from 11.00 to 12.00 for Mr. Clark to 
come and drop a spark into the shavings. When he 
arrived the crowd parted quickly for him, and, with 
Mr. Erkeimer and Mr. Swenson, he stood talking and 
smiling for some minutes more at the notch. Mr. 
Clark was a tall slender person, with glasses and an 
aspect of unfamiliarity with a blast-furnace environ- 
ment. No one knew, or ever found out, who he was. 
Mr. Swenson showed him, very carefully, how to 
ignite the shavings with a teapot lamp. Twice the 
photographer, who had come early, got focused for 
the awful moment, and twice Mr. Clark deferred 
lighting the shavings and went on talking with 
Mr. Swenson. Finally, he bent over and lit them. Mr. 
Swenson rapidly turned to the gang behind him. 

"Three cheers for Mr Clark!" he cried, raising his 
hand. When it is recalled that none of us knew the 
man we cheered, it was n't a bad noise. The furnace 
smoked lustily in a few minutes, and several helpers 
rushed around it to thrust red-hot tapping bars in the 



138 STEEL 

blow-holes. They ignited at once the petroleum and 
shavings packed around them. 

Immediately after the cheers, Mr. Swenson's bright- 
looking office-boy hurried through the gang with a 
box of cigars, another immemorial custom in operation. 
The more aggressive got cigars, then disappeared. 
It was a little odd during the afternoon to see a sweat- 
drenched cinder-snapper at his work with a long black 
cigar between his teeth. When they were burned out, 
the department settled back to normal production. 

Many years might pass before such another oc- 
casion in that place. During that period there would 
be no slackening of the melting fires, or of the work of 
the helpers who kept them alive. 

I stood on the platform waiting for the 10.05 train, 
and turned for a look at the landscape of brick and 
iron. I remembered a Hunky who had worked in the 
tube-mill for eighteen years and at length decided to 
go back to the old country. On the day he left, he 
went out the usual gate at the tempered after-work 
pace, walked the gravel path to the railroad embank- 
ment, and stopped for a moment to look back at the 
mill. He stood like a stone-pile on the embankment 
for a quarter of an hour, looking at the cluster of steel 
buildings and stacks. He had spent a life in them, 
making pipe, and I have n't a doubt this was the first 
time it came to him in perspective. From my own 
brief memories, I could guess at those fifteen minutes : 
pain, struggle, monotony, rough-house, laughter, en- 
durance, but principally toil without imagination. 



"NO CAN LIVE" 139 

I thought quickly over my summer in the mills, and 
it looked rather pleasurable in retrospect. Things do. 
There 's a verse on that sentiment in Lucretius, I 
think. I thought of sizzling nights ; of bosses, friendly 
and unfriendly; of hot back-walls, and a good first- 
helper; of fighting twenty-four-hour turns; of interest- 
ing days as hot-blast man; of dreaded five-o'clock 
risings, and quiet satisfying suppers; of what men 
thought, and did n't think And again, of how much 
the life was incident to a flinty-hearted universe and 
how much to the stupidity of men. I knew there were 
scores of matters arranging themselves in well-ordered 
data and conclusion in my head. I had a cool sense 
that, when they came out of the thinking, they would 
not be counsels of perfection, or denunciations, but 
would have substance, be able to weather theorists, 
both the hard-boiled and the sentimental, being com- 
pounded of good ingredients tools, and iron ore, 
and the experience of workmen. 

Is there any one thing though that stands out? I 
heard the train whistle a warning of its arrival. Per- 
haps, if a very complicated matter like the steel-life 
can be compounded in a phrase, it had been done by 
the third-helper on Six. On the day we had thrown 
manganese into a boiling ladle, in a temperature of 
130, he had turned to me slowly and summed it all up. 

"To hell with the money," he said; "no can live!" 



EPILOGUE 

A FURNACE-WORKER 
TALKS OVER THE TWELVE-HOUR DAY 



EPILOGUE 

I HAVE tried to put down the record of the whole of 
my life, as I lived it, and the whole of my environ- 
ment, as I saw and felt it, among the steel-workers in 
1919. To me the book is the story of certain obscure 
personalities, and the record of certain crude and vital 
experiences we passed through together. I think it 
may be read as a story of men and things. 

Many people, however, have asked me the ques- 
tions: What were the conditions in steel and what 
is your opinion of them? What do you think of the 
twelve-hour day? or, How bad was the heat? and the 
like. And, What do you suggest? Since no man who 
has worked in an American steel mill, whatever his 
sympathies or his indiiference, can fail to have 
opinions on these points, I have decided to set down 
mine, for what they are worth, as simply and infor- 
mally as I can. 

There is a proper apology, I think, that can be 
made for the presumption of conclusions based upon 
an individual experience. An intimate and detailed 
record of processes and methods and the physical 
and mental environment of the workers in any basic 
industry is rare enough, I believe, except when it is 
heightened or foreshortened for a political purpose. 
No industrial reform can rest upon a single narrative 



144 STEEL 

of personal experience; but such a narrative, if genu- 
ine, can supply its portion of data, and possibly point 
where scientific research or public action can follow. 

Let me state my bias in the matter as well as I can. 
I was by no means indifferent to economic and social 
values when I began my job; in fact, I confess to be- 
ing interested keenly in most of them. But I never 
sought information as an "investigator." Most of my 
energy of mind and body was spent upon doing the 
job in hand; and what impressions I received came 
unsought in the course of a day's work. I began my 
job with an almost equal interest in the process of 
steel-making, the administration of business, and the 
problem of industrial relations. 

Some apology I owe to the several hundred steel- 
workers with whom I worked, and the many thou- 
sands in other mills, since most of them know from a 
far longer and deeper experience the conditions and 
policies of which I speak. My sole reason for raising 
my own voice in the presence of this multitude of 
authorities is that the Hunkies, who constitute the 
major part, are unable either to find an audience or to 
be understood if they find one. Again, they are like 
Pete, who, when I asked him what were the duties of 
a third-helper, which I have described to the length of 
several pages in this book, replied: "He has a hell 
of a lot to do." And as to the American workers and 
bosses, most of them lack the opportunity of any 
speaking that will be heard beyond their own furnaces ; 
and, again, they are too close to their environment to 
see what is in it. They are natives, while I am more 



EPILOGUE 145 

nearly a foreigner, and can see their steel country 
with something of the freshness and perspective that 
a foreigner brings. 

I want to add that the management of the mill 
where I worked was a body of men exceedingly 
efficient and fair-minded, it appeared to me; and any 
remarks upon the twelve-hour day, or other condi- 
tions, are critical of an arrangement typical of Amer- 
ican steel-management as a whole, and not of indi- 
viduals or a locality. 

The twelve-hour day makes the life of the steel- 
worker different in a far-reaching manner from the 
life of the majority of his fellow workers. 

It makes the industry different in its fundamental 
organization and temper from an eight-hour or a ten- 
hour industry. 

It transforms the community where men live whose 
day is twelve hours long. 

"What is it really like? How much of the time do 
you actually work ? Are you ' all in ' when you wash 
up in the morning after the shift, and go home?" 

To tell it exactly, if I can: You go into the mill, a 
little before six, and get into your mill clothes. There 
may be the call for a front- wall while you 're button- 
ing your shirt. You pick up a shovel and run into a 
spell of fairly hot work for three quarters of an hour. 
On another day you may loaf for fifteen minutes be- 
fore anything starts. After front-wall, you take a 
drink from the water fountain behind your furnace, 
and wash your arms, which have got burned a little, 
and your face, in a trough of water. A "clean-up" 

11 



146 STEEL 

job follows in front of the furnace, which means 
shoveling slag still hot down the slag-hole for 
ten minutes, and loading cold pieces of scrap, which 
have fallen on the floor, into a box. Pieces weigh 
twenty, forty, one hundred pounds; anything over? 
you hook up with a chain and let the overhead crane 
move it. This for a half-hour. 

Suddenly someone says, " Back-wall f" Lasts say 
thirty or forty minutes. It 's hot temperature, 
150 or 160 when you throw your shovelful in and 
lively work for back and legs. Everybody douses his 
face and hands with water to cool off, and sits down 
for twenty minutes. Making back-wall has affinities 
with stoking, only it's hotter while it lasts. The 
day is made up of jobs like these shoveling 
manganese at tap- time, "making bottom," bringing 
up mud and dolomite in wheelbarrows for fixing the 
spout, hauling fallen bricks out of the furnace. 

They vary in arduousness: all would be marked 
"heavy work" in a job specification. They are all 
"hard-handed" jobs, and some of them done in high 
heat. Between, run intervals from a few minutes to 
two or three hours. From some of the jobs it is im- 
perative to catch your breath for a spell. Sledging a 
hard spout, making a hot back-wall, knocks a gang 
out temporarily for fifteen or twenty minutes; no 
man could do those things steadily without inter- 
ruption. It is like the crew resting on their oars after 
a sprint. Again, some of the spells between are just 
leisure; the furnace does n't need attention, that 's all; 
you 're on guard, waiting for action. Furnace work 



EPILOGUE 147 

has similarities with cooking; any cook tends his stove 
part of the time by watching to see that nothing 
burns up. 

I have had two or three hours' sleep on a "good" 
night-shift; two or three "easy" days will follow one 
another. Then there will come steady labor for nearly 
the whole fourteen hours, for a week. 

So, briefly, you don't work every minute of those 
twelve hours. Besides the delays that arise out of the 
necessities of furnace work, men automatically scale 
down their pace when they know there are twelve or 
fourteen hours ahead of them : seven or eight hours of 
actual swinging of sledge or shovel. But some of the 
extra time is utterly necessary for immediate re- 
cuperation after a heavy job or a hot one. And none 
of the spells, it should be noticed, are "your own 
time." You 're under strain for twelve hours. Nerves 
and will are the Company's the whole shift whether 
the muscles in your hands and feet move or are still. 
And the existence of the long day makes possible 
unrelieved labor, hard and hot, the whole turn of 
fourteen hours, if there is need for it. 

Inseparable from the twelve-hour day in the open- 
hearth where I worked were the twenty-four-hour 
shift, and the seven-day week. 

What does it mean to make steel twenty-four 
hours a day? to your muscles, to your thoughts, to 
the production of steel? Sunday morning, at 7.00, 
you begin work. There is an hour off at 5.00 p. M. 
Front-wall, fix spout, tap, back-wall, front-wall, fix 
spout, tap, back-wall the second half is something 



148 STEEL 

of a game between time and fatigue. For a hot back- 
wall, or sledging out a bad tap-hole, may as easily 
come upon you at 5.00 or 6.00 of the second morning 
as at noon of the first day. 

I Ve worked "long turns" that I did n't mind over- 
much, and others that ground my soul. If you are 
young and fit, you can work a steady twenty-four 
hours at a hot and heavy job and "get away." But 
in my judgment even the strongest of the Czecho- 
slovaks, Serbs, and Croats who work the American 
steel-furnaces cannot keep it up, twice a month, year 
after year, without substantial physical injury. "A 
man got to watch himself, this job, tear himself down," 
the second-helper on Seven told me. He had worked 
at it six years, and was feeling the effects in nerves 
and weight. Let me make an exception : one Hunky, a 
helper on Number 4, was famed for having "a back 
like a mule." He could, I am sure, work seven twenty- 
four-hour shifts a week with comfort. But for all other 
men, with the exception of Joe, the long turn is an un- 
reasonable overtaxing of human strength. Lastly, the 
effort of will, the "nerve" that the thing calls for 
in the last hours before that second morning, is too 
heavy a demand, for any wages whatever. The third- 
helper on Number 8 took, I think, a reasonable at- 
titude when he said: "To hell with the money, no can 
live!" 

The "long turn" leaves a man thoroughly tired, 
"shot," for several shifts following. As I said in the 
first part of this book, it is hardly before Friday that 
the gang makes up sleep and comes into the mill in 



EPILOGUE 149 

normal temper. Here is the condition. You have ten 
hours for recuperation after twenty-four hours' work. 
Washing up in a hurry, getting breakfast, and walking 
home gets you in bed by 8.00. Eight hours' sleep is 
the best you can get. At 4.00 o'clock you must dress, 
eat, and walk to the mill. Men who live an hour or 
more from the mill, as some do, must, of course, sub- 
tract that time as well from sleep. After the ten hours 
off, you return to the mill at 5.00, to begin another 
four teen-hours' steel-making. That night is un- 
questionably the worst of the two-weeks' cycle. The 
nervous excitement that helps any man through the 
twenty-four turn has gone quite. The seven or 
eight hours of day sleep seem to have taken that 
away without substituting rest; and what you have 
on your hands is an overfatigued body, refusing to be 
goaded further. My observation was that, on this 
Monday after, men made mistakes; there were argu- 
ments, bad temper, and fights, and a much higher 
frequency of collision with the foreman. Efficiency, 
quality, discipline dropped. 

The other accompaniment of the twelve-hour shift, 
the averaging of seven working-days per week, has, I 
am convinced, an equally bad physiological effect 
upon the healthiest of men. As I have said earlier, 
"the twenty-four hours off," which comes once a 
fortnight on alternate weeks to the twenty-four-hour 
shift, is a curiously contracted holiday. It comes at 
the conclusion of fourteen hours' work on the night- 
shift, and is immediately followed by ten hours' work 
on the day-shift. As far as I could observe, men went 



150 STEEL 

on a long debauch for twenty-four hours, or, if the 
week had been particularly heavy, slept the entire 
twenty-four. In the first instance they deprived them- 
selves of any sleep, and went to work Monday in an 
extraordinarily jaded condition. In the second, they 
forfeited their only holiday for two weeks. 

Another feature that impresses you when you 
actually work under the system is that the sleep you 
get is troubled, at best. You are compelled to go to 
bed one week by day, and the next by night. By 
about Friday, I found my body getting itself adjusted 
to day sleep; but the change, of course, was due again 
Monday. And yet, by comparing my sleeping hours 
with those of my fellow workers, I found my day rest 
was averaging better than theirs. Many of them, I 
found, went to bed at 9.00 in the morning and got up 
about 2.00. They complained of being unable to sleep 
properly by day. The body will adjust itself to con- 
tinued day sleeping, I know; but apparently not to 
the weekly shifts, from day sleep to night sleep, 
customary in steel. 

The "long turn" of twenty-four hours and the 
"seven-day week" I have never heard defended, 
either in the mill by any foreman or workman, or out- 
side by any member of the management, or even in a 
public statement. If, by an arrangement of extra 
workers, it were possible to eliminate these features 
and still keep the twelve-hour work-day for six days 
a week, there would, I think, be a certain number of 
men ready enough to work under that arrangement. 
I met one man, for example, who said: "Good job, 



EPILOGUE 151 

work all time, no spend, good job save." There are a 
few foreign workers whose plan is to work steadily 
for ten or fifteen years, and then carry the money 
back to the old country. These men are willing to 
spend the maximum time within mill walls, since they 
have no intention of marrying, settling down, and be- 
coming Americans. But their numbers are small, and 
the desirability of their type is questionable. It is un- 
wise, at any rate, to build the labor policy of a great 
industry in their interest. 

On those first night-shifts I wondered if my feelings 
on the arrangement of hours were not solely those of a 
sensitive novice. I 'd "get used to it," perhaps. But 
I found that first-helpers, melters, foremen, "old 
timers," and "Company men" were for the most part 
against the long day. They were all looking forward, 
with varying degrees of hope, to the time when the 
daily toll of hours would be reduced. 

The twelve-hour day gives a special character to the 
industry itself as well as to the men. I remember 
noticing the difference in pace, in tempo, from that of a 
machine shop or a cotton mill. Men learn to cultivate 
deliberate movement, with a view to the fourteen- 
hour stretch they have before them. When I began 
work with a pickaxe on some hot slag, on my first 
night, I was reproached at once: "Tak' it eas', lotza 
time before seven o'clock." And the foremen fell in 
with the men. They winked at sleeping, for they did 
it themselves. 

Another kind of inefficiency that flowed quite 
naturally from excessive hours was "absenteeism," 



152 STEEL 

and aJiigh "turnover" of labor. Men kept at the job 
as long as they could stick it, and then relaxed into a 
two or three weeks' drunk. Or they quit the Company 
and moved to another mill, for the sake of change and 
a break in the drudgery. I remember an Austrian 
with whom I worked in the "pit," who said he was 
going to get drunk in Pittsburgh, go to the movies, 
and move to Johnstown the following Monday. He 
had been on the job three weeks. New faces appeared 
on the gangs constantly, and dropped out as quickly. 
I achieved my promotion from common labor in the 
pit to the floor of the furnace by supplying on a 
twenty-four-hour shift, when absentees are apt to be 
numerous, and it is hard fully to man the furnaces. 
The company kept a large number of extra men on its 
pay roll because of the number of absentees, and the 
turnover percentage ran high. 

It is impossible to live under this loose regime - 
with high turnover, and the work-pace necessarily 
keyed low because of the excessive burden of hours 
spent under the roof of the mill and not wonder if 
there is n't an engineering problem in it. The impres- 
sion was of a vast wastage of man-hours. The question 
suggested itself: "Is it in the long run, good business 
an efficient thing?" An exhaustive investigation 
by engineers and economists could surely be made to 
answer this question. 

People ask: "Is there any mechanical or metal- 
lurgical reason for the twelve-hour day ? " The answer 
is: No. There are several plants of independent steel 
companies that run on a three-shift, eight-hour basis ; 



EPILOGUE 153 

and the steel mills in England, France, Germany, and 
Italy operate with three eight-hour shifts. The long 
day is not a metallurgical necessity, therefore. The 
metallurgical explanation of the twelve-hour day, 
however, is this. The process of making iron or steel 
is necessarily a continuous one, because the heat of the 
furnaces must be conserved by keeping up the fires 
twenty-four hours a day. So the division into either 
two shifts of twelve hours or three shifts of eight be- 
comes imperative. Other industries might reduce 
their hours gradually from twelve to ten, and then to 
nine. With steel the full jump from twelve to eight 
must be made. Without doubt, this metallurgical 
factor accounts in some measure for the conservatism 
of the steel companies in making the change. 

It is none of my business, in summing up a personal 
experience, to review the story of steel mills which 
have undertaken a three-shift plan of operation, of 
eight hours each, in place of the two shifts of twelve. 
But the study has been made by engineers and econo- 
mists, who have collected figures as to the cost of 
operation on an eight-hour basis as contrasted with a 
twelve. The increased cost in product which such a 
change would entail is between three and five per cent. 1 

The community of workers takes on a special 
character, where men live whose day is twelve hours 
long. "We have n't any Sundays," the men said; and 
"There is n't time enough at home." This is the most 

l The Three Shift System in Steel Horace B. Drury: an address to the 
Taylor Society and certain sections of the Am. Soc. Mech. Engineers and of 
the Am. Inst. Electr. Engineers, Dec. 3, 1920. 



154 STEEL 

far-reaching effect of " hours " in steel, I think, and 
easily transcends the others. 

"What do you do when you leave the mill ? " people 
ask. "On my night-week," I answer, "I wash up, go 
home, eat, and go to bed." Anything that happens in 
your home or city that week is blotted out, as if it 
occurred upon a distant continent; for every hour of 
the twenty-four is accountable, in sleep, work, or food, 
for seven days; unless a man prefers, as he often does, 
to cheat his sleep-time and have his shoes tapped, or 
take a drink with a friend. 

The day-week is decidedly better. You work jpnly 
ten hours, from seven to five. Those evenings men 
spend with their families, or at the movies, or going to 
bed early to rest up for the "long turn." It is not, 
however, as if it were a "ten-hour industry." Some 
of the wear and tear of the seven fourteen-hour shifts 
of the night-week protracts itself into the day-week, 
and you hear men saying: "This ten-hour day seems 
to tire me more than the fourteen; funny thing." 
However the week may be divided up, it is impossible 
to keep the human body from recording the fact that 
it averages seven twelve-hour days, or eighty-four 
hours of work, in the week. 

For the men who did a straight twelve hours, "six 
to six," for seven days, the sense of "no time off" was 
very strong. I worked these hours for a time on the 
blast-furnace, and remember that the complaint was, 
not so much that there was n't some bit of an evening 
before you, but that there was rip untired time when 
you were good for anything work or play. When 



EPILOGUE 155 

you had sat about for perhaps an hour after supper, 
you recovered enough to crave recreation. A movie 
was the very peak to which you could stir yourself. 
There were men who went further. I knew a young 
Croat in Pittsburgh who attended night-school after a 
twelve-hour day. But he is the only one of all the steel- 
workers I met who attempted such heroism. And he 
had to stop after a few weeks. 

Now it should be mentioned that some of the social 
life that most workers find outside the mill gets 
squeezed somehow into it. In the spells between front- 
walls we used to talk everything, from scandal about 
the foreman to the presidential election. The daily 
news, labor troubles, the late war, the second-helper's 
queer ways passed back and forth when you washed 
up, or ate out of your bucket, or paused between 
stunts. Then there was kidding, comradely boxing, 
and such playfulness as hitching the crane-hooks to a 
man's belt. One first-helper remarked: "I like the 
game because there 's so much hell-raisin' in it." 

But this is hardly a substitute for a man's time 
to himself, for seeing his wife, knowing his own 
children, and participating in the life of larger groups. 
Soldiers have a faculty for taking so good-humoredly 
the worst rigors of a campaign, that some people have 
made the mistake of turning their admirable adapt- 
ability into a justification for war. 

The twelve-hour day, I believe, tends to discourage 
a man from marrying and settling into a regular home 
life. Men complained that they did n't see their 
wives, or get to know their children, since the schedule 



156 STEEL 

of hours shrunk matters at home to food, sleep, and 
the necessities. "My wife is always after me to leave 
this game," Jock used to say, the first-helper on 
Seven. Mathematically, it figures something like this : 
twelve hours of work, an hour going to and from the 
mill, an hour for eating, eight hours of sleep which 
leaves two hours for all the rest, shaving, mowing the 
lawn, and the "civilizing influence of children." 

I have no brief to offer for the eight-hour day as a 
general panacea for evils in industry. I merely bear 
witness to the fact that the twelve-hour day, as I 
observed it, tended either to destroy, or to make un- 
reasonably difficult, that normal recreation and par- 
ticipation in the doings of the family group, the 
church, or the community, which we ordinarily 
suppose is reasonable and part of the American in- 
heritance. 

Steel has often been described by its old timers as a 
"he-man's game." That has even figured as an argu- 
ment against any innovation that might lighten the 
load of the workers in it, and against any change in 
the twelve-hour day itself. The industry has certainly 
a rough-and-tumble quality and a dangerous streak 
in it, that will always call for men with some tough- 
ness of fibre. But I question whether the quality of 
the men it attracts, and the type it moulds within its 
own ranks, will ever be improved by the twelve- 
hour day. The excessive hours, I know, operate as a 
check against many younger men, who would other- 
wise enter the industry. The inherent fascination of 
making steel is, I think, very great. It was for me. 



EPILOGUE 157 

But the appeal is the mechanical achievement of the 
industry, its size, power, and importance, even its 
dangers. The twelve-hour day, on the other hand, 
tends to place a premium on time-serving and drudg- 
ery, in lieu of the more masculine qualities of adven- 
ture and initiative. 



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